Despite getting top marks in my IE, I felt it be wise to get some practical experience doing a teaching Internship with Davy Jones’ Locker, especially as I’d be more employable with a little experience under the weight belt (the first question you’re asked as a Dive Instructor looking for work is: How many Certs do you have?)
The MSDT internship kick-starts your teaching career with your first 25 Certifications (and possibly more) plus it includes all the Specialty Instructor Courses that I wanted to do and would have had to pay for anyway. For example to become a MSDT (Master Scuba Diver Trainer) you need the 25 certifications and 5 Padi Specialty’s but at DJL I received 7 for the same price. I chose Wreck Specialty Instructor, Nitrox Instructor, O2 Provider, Night, Search and Recovery, Deep and Digital Underwater Photography but there are many more you can choose from. So for not a lot more money, I could also get those Certs, a foot in the door of a great dive shop, and some first-class experience and feedback in one of the most competitive dive environments around. It is possible to pick up freelance jobs on Koh Tao, but there’s no guarantee the work will flow and there’s no guarantee that you’ll be the Certifying Instructor (Freelancers who aren’t known by the Dive Shop are at the bottom of the food chain here).
The IDC teaches you how to go about imparting dive knowledge both practical and theoretical to prospective students. Out in the real world actually controlling a new group of under-water babies is a totally different matter and the skills learnt get put into practice straight away. Attentiveness is key.
Holding onto a student’s BCD with one hand and putting your other hand in front of their regulator whilst they remove and replace their mask in open water becomes something you do as a matter of course not just something to impress the Examiner (the acting “students” in your IE aren’t suddenly going to panic, spit out their regulator and make a breath-held bolt for the surface).
In fact, I think I learnt more shadowing a Senior Instructor for my 1st Open Water course here than I did in my whole IDC. Every Instructor will tell you that they made mistakes at the start and that they learnt on the job. Doing an Internship provides a safe environment for this. I’ll admit I’ve made some mistakes in the past few weeks; fortunately, they were corrected by the Senior Instructors before they could become a possible issue. No damage done, happy customers, lessons learnt.
I’ve now shadowed and part-taught 2 Advanced and 4 Open Water Courses. Before I began I already had lots of general teaching experience and was confident of my abilities, but now I am also confident that I’m a safe Instructor. Though rare, accidents do happen, especially in the OW course. I don’t want any on my watch.
As far as the length of the course goes, I’m taking a slightly more leisurely pace as I’ve got time to play with, but if I was in a rush I think I could have done the whole program to MSDT in around 3 weeks. Also, like the other Internships here if there’s space on the boat there’s free fun diving and as a part of the Dive Team, there’s always a group of people to go out for a beer with after hours. I couldn’t recommend it more.