Once in Baqueira, a ski resort in Spain I had a ski instructor who kept criticizing whatever I did. Not a word of praise no matter how hard I tried to improve. In the middle of the lesson after he told me that “all my years of ski lessons were futile and I hadn’t learned anything”, I looked at him in the face and told him “you are fired”.

He could not believe me. I stared at him and said “I hired you to learn, not to get trashed, please go, I would rather ski with my family”. And he left. And I had a good day of skiing.

I don’t believe that learning should be demoralizing: criticism should always be balanced with praise.

As a person who lived in USA and Spain I should add that US instructors are generally uplifting. Unfortunately a lot of teachers in Spain believe that praise spoils the student. As a result many in Spain are demoralized.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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Pavel Bokuvka on September 4, 2012  · 

The same goes with parents teaching their own kids (anything – be it skiing, riding a bike etc). Always curious to watch parents, typically non-skiers at first sight, to yell at their kids how lame they are, not being able to control theirs skis and do what they are told. No word of acknowledgement, no wonder kids are discouraged. Learning should be fun, especially learing sport.

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Philippe Calvo on September 4, 2012  · 

I remember your post about that some years ago. I think it’s not only a matter of being a good teacher, but also a matter of rude behaviour, specially in Catalonia. Just go to some other places in Spain or France and you will find much more kind people. In fact, when I ski in Baqueira I find much kinder treatment from the resort staff (good morning, have a nice day…) because most of their clients come from Madrid. Just try another catalan ski resort near Barcelona and you will not get any kind word from the employees!

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Carles Goodvalley on September 4, 2012  · 

Next time you can hire my brother, he’s a very good instructor and knows Baqueira quite well. People are always happy with his instructions skills. I know he’s my brother, but I honestly think that he always finds a way to get the best of his ski costumers and students.

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Diego on September 4, 2012  · 

Baqueira is overrated – go to Formigal. It is even larger, much less congested and has newer infrastructure. Not to mention – like #2 said – that the employess are significantly nicer than in the catalan slopes!
Formigal is the hidden gem of the Pyrenees.

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Raul on September 4, 2012  · 

Next time I can recomend to you a great instructor in Baqueira. Here there are some of the Best.

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Fran on September 4, 2012  · 

Martin, you should hire me if you still need ski lessons which i doubt 🙂

And i don’t understand all the hate for Catalonia in the comments.

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cris on September 4, 2012  · 

Me imagino que ya conocerás este documental, pero lo pongo de todos modos:
Un saludo desde Suecia

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cris on September 4, 2012  · 

I forgot to post it in English. http://www.educacionprohibida.com/
It’s a documentary in Spanish but you can add/download English subtitles (Youtube option or srt file and add it via VLC player for example). It’s an educational project recorded and produced in Argentina, Spain and other countries. It’s about how education should be, I highly recommend it.

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Javier Carpio on September 5, 2012  · 

Hello Martin,

I have discovered a lot less world than you have, but I have lived some time in a few countries and the most important lesson I’ve learnt is that you cannot judge a community or a country by the experience you had with a specific person. Everywhere I go I find people more polite, less polite, kind, rude, etc. it’s true that the culture has a lot of influence, but I believe everyone has the right to be known before being judged, no matter his religion, culture, nationality, job, etc.

I say this and I admit that I follow you for a long time and I know you are a very open minded and tolerant person, that’s the reason why it shocks me more that you tend to group people.

Un saludo afectuoso,

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Niels on September 5, 2012  · 

Dear Martin,

I think you hit the nail on the head (dutch expression for spot-on). I had a spanish boss who was like that as well. The only difference between the ski-teacher story and my own is that I said to the company: I quit! and left a week later. I think that this is the spanish culture. People do not realize that passionate people need guidance and not to be bossed around.


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rosalind williams on September 18, 2012  · 

Thank you for this comment. I am from California and have lived in Spain 43 years and first came to Spain to study nearly 50 years ago. I agree totally with your comment about the teaching methodology in Spain.
Rosalind Williams

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Josemanuelxxi on September 24, 2012  · 

Same thing happened to me learning paragliding. The instructor look at me after trying to do a fly and walk up a high hill and said: “muy mal!!” same thing once and again… Really encouraging… !!

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Prixdami on September 29, 2012  · 

Did you get your money back?

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Martin Varsavsky on October 1, 2012  · 

No, I did not.

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