By Dayne Lewis, 2006.

We’ve all heard the expression ‘actions speak louder than words’, but do we really understand how it can affect the learning outcome of our students?

Our body language can be the difference between success and failure, whether we realise it or not. I’ve recently been introduced to the topic and feel it is a little overlooked in our industry. This article explores both the positive and negative effects of body language, for both us as instructors and our students.

Crossed arms

This is often said to indicate a closed mind and that you are not willing to look outside the square. This can also be perceived as being standoffish. On the other hand, if a student has crossed arms and a blank look on their face this can also indicate a lack on understanding.

Placing barriers in front of yourself

An instructor placing their board between the group and themselves when speaking can indicate to the group that they are trying to separate or protect themselves using the board as a barrier. Students may find it intimidating and therefore may not ask as many questions.

Eye contact

In this industry eye contact is limited due to the harsh environment we work in. This does not mean it should be overlooked. Eye contact is said to be the most important tool of body language. Therefore we should use it in our introduction as this will set a more personal and friendly environment, it is also a great start for both your students and yourself. Remember first impressions do last.

Shoulder tension

Shoulder tension can be read in many different ways but the most common one we come across in this industry is called the ‘duck’. This is where the shoulders raise up and the head sinks down, this indicates one of two problems, both as important as each other. The first impression it gives is confusion, perhaps about a task or question. The other is fear which could be a change in terrain or just putting your student in an uncomfortable situation. By dropping their head they feel they are submitting or cowering to your mercy. The shoulders raising up is an instinctive action to protect themselves from danger. These are two very serious reactions and should be read with care, know your student’s limits.

Body movements

By carrying a relaxed posture with smooth body movements and a confident smile will instantly create a relaxed environment and will put your students at ease. Using this combination and including a confident tone with a variation of highs and lows in your voice will also make your students believe in you and your judgment, therefore creating a great learning environment.

Style and image

Looking cool comes part and parcel with being a snowboard instructor, but there is a huge difference between looking cool and looking professional. To get a mixture of the two is easy, just combine cool accessories such as goggles, beanie, gloves, boots etc. with a uniform that fits… and wala! Looking and acting professional will in turn gain the respect of your students with people taking you seriously, and will also represent your mountain well. On the other hand if you have pants down to your bum and a jacket that doesn’t fit with old accessories, not only will it be hard to gain the respect of your students and peers but no-one will take you seriously. In any job it always pays to step it up a notch. This will also make your students feel as if they are getting a more professional job and also their moneys worth.

These few examples show just how important your body language is and that it is a very strong tool for you as a trainer or teacher to know and understand. I hope by reading this brief introduction on body language I have inspired others to show an interest in this overlooked subject and to be aware of how it will benefit both the teacher and learning outcome of the students.

References

  • Body Language, Susan Quilliam.
  • Body Language – How to Make the Best of Your Assets, Susan Quilliam.
  • The Practical Art of Face Reading, Simon G. Brown.

Dayne Lewis