An objective guide to finding a great sailing school  

A Sailing School Is Only As Good As Its Instructors (2/2)

How to Judge a School (continued)

Finding out all of this information about a school can be more trouble than most students will put in, so here are a few tips that every student should follow to get a sense of a school's instructor pool:

  • Understand the reputation of the school relative to other schools in the area. Often, great instructors will gravitate to the most well-known schools for better pay and prestige
  • Call and ask the school where they find their instructors and how long they tend to stay. When the school representative begins to tout how much experience their instructors have, probe on whether or not instructors are ever asked to leave if they aren't well liked. Any long-standing school should occasionally have to replace its teachers.
  • Ask about the role of the instructor, preferably from an actual instructor instead of a scheduling or sales representative. Some schools hold their instructors accountable for the overall experience, whereas lesser schools will only require that their instructors teach the assigned material.

Talking to an Instructor Directly

If circumstances allow and you want a more interactive approach to selecting a teacher, spend a few minutes talking with your future instructor about the course. Along with deciding whether or not you like the person, you can figure out whether or not this instructor will run a great class. (teaching the material, instilling confidence, and providing inspiration).

As with any teacher, look for someone inviting and open to your questions. If the instructor takes the time to answer your questions thoughtfully and seems to have your interest in mind, then you're likely to be in for a treat when your class begins. Think about whether the instructor will fulfill all of his or her duties, including teaching the material, instilling confidence, and providing inspiration.

Warning Signs of Bad Instructors

In truth, bad instructors are few and far between in the world of sailing courses, but they certainly exist and can often spend years with a school before being asked to leave. Avoid the few bad eggs in the industry when choosing a school and scheduling classes.

Everyone at the school will know which instructors to avoid, and there is no shame in asking. When scheduling classes, get advice from the scheduler on which instructors might hurt your experience. Once you're assigned an instructor, ask anyone you can to make sure that you're not losing out.

Bad instructors can fall short of student expectations for several reasons. They either don't communicate well, they think it is more important that students learn the material exactly than become comfortable with sailing, or they simply don't enjoy the act of teaching as much as others.

Be alert for the following warning signs when you're trying to learn more about your instructor:

  • Comments about confused students tends to be a red flag for instructors who haven't figured out how to explain complex concepts in simple, easy-to-understand terms.
  • Instructors who are reported to have trouble with certain kinds of students often are the type to make people feel nervous or under pressure when operating the boat, which seriously undermines the benefit of lessons.
  • Any instructor from whom nobody really loves to learn probably suffers from not loving to teach. Be wary of instructors who merely get lukewarm reviews from school employees, as they may love sailing but don't really care about the experience of their students.

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How to Find Sailing Schools to Consider -- Make sure to start yourself with a solid list of schools to compare before making a decision. The right school for you isn't always the easiest to find.

Typical Content for a US Sailing or ASA Beginner Sailing Course -- Know what your sailing course will entail in terms you can understand.

Best Locations for Your First Sailing School -- Basic facts about the four most prominent sailing areas in the United States.

The Right Length and Schedule for a Sailing School Course -- A discussion of the total course length needed to learn to sail and various course formats.

Every Body Counts: Class Size in Sailing Schools -- The facts about how a larger or smaller class is going to affect your experience in sailing school.

The Final Decision: There Can Be Only One -- A summary of the most important aspects of a sailing course and thoughts on how to make your choice.