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what parents truly want to know. In addi- tion to Meghan, I caught up with two other parents – Maureen Drummey, ski and snow- board school director at Vermont’s Mount Snow and a member of the PSIA Eastern Division ACE (Advanced Children’s Educa- tor) Team; and Jacob Dunton, an instructor with Alpine Level II, Snowboard Level I, and Children’s Specialist 2 credentials, who has instructed at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Stowe, Vermont. My goal? To help figure out how to guarantee success in end-of-lesson conversations with parents.


MITIGATING END-OF-LESSON CHALLENGES EARLY ON


When you want to have a meaningful conversation with someone about some- thing that is deeply important to them (like their child), you choose a quiet place with- out distractions, where you can dialogue uninterrupted. Does this sound like the kids corral where your kids program parent pickup takes place? Hardly! Therein lies one of the challenges of the end-of-lesson conversation with parents. Parent pickup areas are filled with chaos, flying snow, and distractions. All the parents come at once and their kids fly to them and fall apart emotionally at the end of a long day. The kids are competing with you – the instruc- tor – for their attention. Meanwhile, other kids in your group begin to slip away, or they cry, they want your attention, etc. Really, it’s an impossible setting in which to have meaningful conversations. But we have to make it work. “I set my group up for success ahead of


time,” says Jacob. “During our final run, I wrap up with my kids on the hill. I cover what we did that day so when they talk to their parents, their message is the same as mine.” When parents ask their children questions later, there is a chance that their answers will be consistent with what actu- ally happened in the lesson. During that final run, Jacob also checks


for understanding, asks questions, and has students repeat things back to him. “Then we make a game plan for the pickup area,” he says. He explains that his students are to stay with him even if they see their parents. “Make parents come to us,” he says. Finally, he gives students an activity – a game perhaps – to play in the pickup zone, or he at least instructs them to sit in a circle while he talks to parents. If they’re sitting, they’re not walking away. Because we don’t want parents to see kids disappearing on us. We want to show parents that, even here at the end of the lesson, we keep track of, and control, our kids.


GET YOUR CHILDREN’S SPECIALIST CERTIFICATE Children’s lessons make up sixty-nine percent of business in ski U


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You know it happened. The kids know it happened. Do mom and dad? Be sure to tell parents what amazing things their kid accomplished in the lesson, while ensuring them that you had their safety as your number one priority.


For Jacob, setting up for success at the end-of-lesson conversation doesn’t start on the last run; it starts at the beginning of the lesson. “I have a group meeting to set up a plan for the day,” he says. Together with students, he sets goals. If everyone has something to work on, then that sets up an end-of-the-day conversation. “We decided at the beginning to work on hockey stops,” he might say. “And this helped us to flatten our skis and rotate them beneath a stable upper body.” Here’s the problem: a bad end-of-the-day conversation can negate a great lesson; a


great conversation with parents doesn’t necessarily cover up a poor lesson. Instruc- tors therefore need to learn to make the most of a challenging setting in which to have great dialogues with parents, and we need to teach great lessons. But it’s not such a problem, because we already teach great lessons. Communicating with parents is a skill that can be practiced and mastered.


WHAT NOT TO SAY AND DO


Last season a new instructor brought his five- and six-year-olds into the children’s area to meet parents at pickup time. He


THESNOWPROS.ORG | 67


MARK AIKEN


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