Let’s say that you’re an instructional rating holder who is sitting around with two other instructional rating holders during a weather hold on a Saturday afternoon at the DZ. As you’re chatting, one comment leads to another and soon an in-depth discussion on the DZ’s student program, safety initiatives and recent changes to the USPA Skydiver’s Information Manual and Instructional Rating Manual starts. The conversation lasts until well after sunset. As it ends, you remember that your membership and ratings expire at the end of the month, and you still need to complete the rating-renewal-seminar requirement. You pose this question to the other two rating holders: “Did this count as a rating-renewal seminar?”
USPA Instructor Examiners often encounter questions as to what constitutes a rating-renewal seminar. And they often receive blank stares followed by crickets when they ask, “What did you do for your rating-renewal seminar?”
The Glossary in the SIM provides the following definition:
Every instructional rating holder (from coach to examiner) needs to attend a rating-renewal seminar to renew their rating each year. To help you better understand what might constitute a rating-renewal seminar, here’s a breakdown of the definition:
“A meeting of USPA instructional rating holders”
The meeting can be planned or impromptu, but it is more likely to meet the requirements and spirit of the definition if it starts with a clear list of discussion topics.
“to exchange information”
Exchange of information requires attendees to not only listen but also participate and provide their ideas and experiences. This environment helps to flush out valuable tribal knowledge from the field.
“introduce and discuss new ideas”
Rehashing topics does not contribute to the overall idea of continuing education. Giving plenty of time and attention to new trains of thought is what supports growth and vision.
“and to develop, improve, or assure the quality of skydiving instruction”
Improved quality of instruction is the desired outcome, so the seminar should reflect that. Although many DZs hold rating-renewal seminars that coincide with Safety Day and would meet the requirement, simply attending a general Safety Day seminar would not. Most Safety Day seminars focus on clearing out cobwebs for the average jumper, and while this is also valuable for rating holders, it is not the same as attending a seminar that focuses on rating holders improving their instructional abilities.
Getting together with a couple of instructors over beers and complaining about how awkward a student’s exit was does not fit the description of a rating-renewal seminar. The spirit of the requirement is for instructional rating holders to come together and discuss various aspects of how they do their jobs and come to a better understanding of what USPA expects of them. In a nutshell, it’s continuing education.
The following are good examples of what would qualify:
- An additional day or portion of Safety Day that includes topics specifically for instructors
- Examiner standardization meetings, which are open to any USPA member
- An educational summit where a skydiving school’s examiners have specific discussions on how to make their courses and courseware better.
USPA’s Safety and Training Department is planning to support rating-renewal seminars by offering skill refreshers along with knowledge refreshers. The USPA Board’s Safety & Training Committee is considering requiring instructors to receive biennial flight reviews to promote skill improvement. These would be designed to standardize the training in each instructional method. To support education, USPA is expanding its library to include online modules for each instructional method, which will help instructors review fundamentals and learn of critical updates.
So, after all this, what is the answer to the original question of whether the conversation during a weather hold counts as a rating-renewal seminar? Now that you know the reasoning behind the requirement, you be the judge.
Ray Lallo | D-11400, Mountain Regional Director, AFF Instructor Examiner, Coach Examiner, Tandem and Static-Line Instructor, PRO