Professional Development Plan

I’ve been giving this post some real thought. Where do I go from here? I will be done my Provincial Instructor Diploma Program after this course (and capstone project) and I really want to put it to good use.


I have a 5-year plan with Sail Nelson where I would like the business and my teaching to go. My one to two year plan is to re-certify my Intermediate Cruising Instructor certification (Spring 2019) and to complete a Coastal Navigation course to offer to my students (Fall 2019). In order to do this I will have to travel to the Coast to complete a team-teaching course and then send in a request to Sail Canada noting why it would be beneficial for me to offer navigation courses in Nelson. My longer term goal is to set up a sailing club or co-op for students who have completed courses through Sail Nelson (or other recognized sailing schools) where they can take out boats for day sailing.

As part of my Sail Nelson business, I plan to create more piktocharts and branded information for my students that I can offer free on my website. I also plan to go through my course curriculum and more clearly define my objectives and try to update my course delivery methods to make them a little more interesting. I will purchase a tablet that can be used on the boat for diagrams and teaching materials.

On a non-sailing note, I plan to take more business driven courses to continue to learn about how to run a business. I hope to find a mentor I can work with within the sailing business community.  I also plan to take more advanced first aid training as I feel that my basic first aid courses are inadequate.

The PIDP has provided me with some solid insights into which direction I want to take my business and how to go about accomplishing that through my teaching. I still have a lot of questions and a lot of growing to do, but at least now I have a better idea of where to look and how to make them a reality.

Captain Penny

Professional Development Steps

  1. Assess current course demand & note any new courses for next year.
  2. Update course lesson plans & create updated online templates and handouts.
  3. Prepare for Intermediate Instructor Re-cert.
  4. Update Navigation lesson plans and curriculum.
  5. Marketing plan changes for 2019.
  6. Register for advanced first aid course early 2019.
  7. Community Futures business course calendar.
  8. Continue to meet monthly with business coach.
  9. Find a mentor.

Brookfield – Chapter 6

This topic has become near and dear to me as I finish up the Provincial Instructor Diploma Program. Lecturing Creatively takes work! It is not ok anymore to just stand in the front of a class and talk and talk and talk. Students expect more from us, and quite frankly that gets boring very quickly!

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With the availability of educational media it is easier than ever for us to create new and exciting ways to deliver our course content. However, one thing I have noticed is that you can spend a lot of time on media that may not really enhance your classroom at the end of the day. It is very easy to get sucked into the “latest and greatest” only to realize you just 3 hours putting together 1 diagram for a small part of your course.


This has been the biggest learning curve for me which is to manage my time effectively. It is easy to fall into old habits and to default to a lecture. It takes great creativity to come up with new and exciting ways to deliver this content to your students. I especially find it challenging to come up with new and exciting ways to teach on the boat as it is a very dynamic environment where I have to think on my feet. The weather really determines which order I teach things in so I can never assume that I will teach X at 1300 hours!

At this point I am exploring the idea of having a tablet on the boat preloaded with lesson plans and diagrams that I can pull up as needed to show things instead of drawing on the whiteboard all the time. This will also take a bit of time to set up, but once it is in the tablet I will have easy access to it!

Program Evaluations

This week’s blog post is about program evaluations.  As a Sail Canada instructor and a Sail Canada affiliate boating school, there are policies and procedures that I need to make sure I implement and follow. All of the courses that offer a Sail Canada certification have specific curriculum and guidelines on what must be taught and what level of abilities my students should have upon completion of their course.

I take great pride in offering Sail Canada courses and I try to help develop and improve the curriculum for our courses as I can. For instance, I recently participated in a team teaching course where we created a new course and curriculum (Spinnaker Standard) for Sail Canada. It was great fun and it also made us all really think about the goals of the program and how to convey that to our students.

As a Sail Canada instructor I must maintain a certain level of first aid accreditation as well as participate in annual continuing education courses. It is up to us to grow our teaching repertoire.  I have to provide copies of my certificates each year which are posted to my instructor profile with Sail Canada. I think this is an important step because it is very easy to just fall into old habits and not take your teaching to the next level.

There are some shortcoming with the sailing school model in my opinion as I do not believe there is enough oversight or quality control of schools or instructors. I have heard many stories from students who have taken a course that was advertised as one thing, but they did not end up with the product they thought. This is not unique to Sail Canada and I find it frustrating as it damages the industry as a whole. I have even had students complain that their instructor was unprofessional, uneducated in all things sailing, and in one instance, completely drunk the entire course. That is just bad form and bad for the rest of us trying to offer a professional experience.

I believe that program evaluation is an ongoing process and something that helps us improve our programs. It forces us to constantly review what we are offering, how and if we can make it better. I have definitely discovered the benefit of feedback from my peers and my students to help me make sure that I am on the right track and that I can make Sail Nelson a successful little sailing school.

Brookfield – Chapter 16

So this weeks’ chapter is about the students’ resistance to learning. Once again I like Brookfield’s approach to this topic.

The idea of a student resisting to learn something was a really new concept for me. I have had times in my courses where my students seemed to “zone out”, but most of my students actively participate in my courses as they are optional, or hobby courses.

As noted by Brookfield, as a teacher we assume that we have to draw everyone into our lessons, and if someone is not engaged, it is our fault. It was interesting to learn that students have different learning styles that could clash with my teaching style. I had never thought of that. Of that in my attempt to draw everyone in, I may be alienating, or losing other students’ interest in the process.


One idea that struck a chord with me is the fear of the unknown. I recognize this in myself. As an advanced sailing educator I find that people assume that I know everything. Well that is just plain ridiculous! Like everyone else, I know my stuff, but there is always something new to learn. Also, I may know my Sail Canada curriculum well, but that does not mean that I know everything surrounding that particular subject.

So, as a student myself, sometimes I have a fear of failure when learning something new. I have extra pressure on myself to learn the subject quickly and explicitly. This sometimes translates into feeling overwhelmed or disengaged from the course. I also find that my time is precious and if a course I have signed up for is not moving at the pace I like, I disengage. Something for me to be aware of when taking a course from fellow colleagues! Putting myself in the learner’s shoes is really helpful.



Brookfield, S. (2015). The Skillful Teacher on Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Brookfield – Chapter 8

Once again Brookfield has made this chapter informative and entertaining with his style of writing.

Teaching in a diverse classroom is definitely not new to me. As a sailing instructor I can expect people from all walks of life in my courses. Sometimes I have teenagers with a parent, sometimes I have a 70-year old looking to rekindle their love of sailing. As such, I really need to tailor my teaching for various levels within the same class. That can be tricky.


Brookfield discusses how to accurately gauge diversity in your classroom using formal assessment tools. I generally do not go to this depth of analysis, but I do request some background information from my students and when I teach a lesson I try to touch on all types of learning styles (visual, audio and tactile).

I also enjoyed the section on team teaching. I do not get to do this often here in Nelson as I am a one-woman shop, however, when I go to the Coast to teach I really enjoy tapping into my colleagues abilities and knowledge to help further my own. My goal is to take new courses each year to further my knowledge of either sailing, safety or teaching. So far I have a few extras in the bank with the PIDP!


As Brookfield notes at the end of Chapter 8, we will always fall short. I will never leave a course thinking I taught everything perfectly and that there was nothing I felt I could have changed. I learn from all of my courses and all of my students. This is what makes teaching so rewarding. I am a lifelong student experimenting and growing as an instructor as I go!



Brookfield, S. (2015). The Skillful Teacher on Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Brookfield – Chapter 1

I have something to admit: I am not a big fan of textbooks. I have been out of university for quite some time now and I am not used to reading such “heavy” text, but I find that Brookfield has a great sense of humour! I am really enjoying his style and wit. I think he would be a fun teacher to have and I can clearly see how he has evolved as a teacher.

I greatly appreciate Brookfield’s honesty about such things as his racism and his preconceived notions that he had in his earlier years of teaching. It really shows you how your upbringing and surroundings impact who you become. However, what I appreciate even more is his ability to recognize those views and to change them. That takes grit, courage and determination.

I particularly enjoyed the section in Chapter 1 about muddling through. Sometimes I really feel like I am  botching a lesson, only to have someone remark that they had no idea that I was struggling! Talk about some fancy footwork! I have always been a real champion for teachers admitting shortcomings and recognizing that we cannot know everything. No one knows everything and I think it takes true strength to admit and recognize that and to be open to criticism and to learn from it.

I also really identified with some of the truths that he noted at the end of Chapter 1. I also think that this is an important exercise in identifying your strengths and weaknesses and building on them. I think I will try to develop my own teaching mantra and truths… this should be amusing! I’ll post them in a few weeks.



Signing off,




Brookfield, S. (2015). The Skillful Teacher on Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Gear Review – Duffel Bags & Packing Cubes

Duffel Bag Gear Review… handy to have!

Sail Nelson

Next gear review for trip prep: duffel bags & packing cubes!

Just as your foul weather gear selection is important, so is the bag that you use to transport everything. When I was living on a boat in Georgian Bay I used to drag around a hockey bag of all my things. Ridiculous! It was huge, impractical and way too bulky and awkward for me.

There have been many advancements in the functionality and fabrics used for duffel bags and luggage since the days when I dragged around my hockey bag. Again, I need to make my wish list to know what to look for:

  • large enough for foulies & boots
  • large zipper for access to entire bag
  • waterproof (ideal, but not mandatory)
  • laundry section (ideal, but not mandatory)
  • backpack straps
  • tough fabric (for rips, tears and throwing around)
  • bright colour (again, not mandatory, but ideal for standing out and…

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Fitness: Getting Started & Variety

Sail Nelson

If you are like me, when it comes to your fitness routine you do a variety of things to keep yourself in shape and balanced. It might include yoga, strength work, running, sports, meditation and maybe even regular massage or chiropractor visits.

As I have my trip coming up this summer, I’m starting to work more on a regular fitness routine which includes stability, balance and core strength.

I previously shared a post of a home workout that Coach Lydia Di Francesco put together for Sail Nelson called A Sailor’s Workout. This is a great, fast and easy 15 min workout which can be used as a warm up to your day, or even a quick lunch workout.

But wait, there’s more!

I also have a few other tricks up my sleeve including my secret weapon: Robin Niderost.

Robin in my aunt and she is a conditioning coach…

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More than I can chew?

Well I have started 2 more PIDP courses this week. I am wondering if I have bitten off more than I can chew since it is also the start of the sailing season and Sail Nelson is getting very busy. But, alas, I am a sucker for punishment I guess.


Image credit: image retrieved from Overthinking

This week I am focusing on reading through our course textbooks and familiarizing myself with the new content and our instructor expectations. Once again, reflective writing assignments are needed and so I’m working on a couple of quotes for my first assignment and leaning towards either:

“Simply having experiences does not imply that they are reflected on, understood or analyzed critically. Individual experiences can be distorted, self-fulfilling, unexamined and constraining.” (p. 12)  or;  “I find myself repeatedly frustrated by not achieving an unblemished record of expressed student satisfaction for every week of the course.” (p. 38). (Brookfield, 2015).
I think I would focus on the first one this time around as I am really noticing that my students need to understand what they are doing and why to really get the most out of their courses. They need to exercise critical thinking, experience self-assessment and receive constructive feedback from me during the course. This can be a tall order to fit into a course when you are dealing with more nature.
Photo retrieved from Wikimedia Commons
Well ready or not it is time to get to work. I’ll keep you updated!

Constructivism and the yachtsman…

Sea Cadets Kate Langhorne and Vikas Memhi sail a 420 sail boat off the coast of CFB Kingson during the Advanced Sail Course. They are among 20 top young sailors from across Canada to be selected for the intense summer training program. (Sgt Kev Parle).

Photo credit: Esprit de corps magazine


For my learning theory essay I will be looking at constructivism. I will define and describe this learning theory as well as briefly discuss the founding theorists for constructivism. I will then discuss the role of the learner and the role of the instructor, followed by three classroom examples of how I view constructivism working in my sailing courses.

Learning Theory Highlights

“Constructivism is less a single theory of learning than a collection of perspectives all of which share the common assumption that learning is how people make sense of their experience—learning is the construction of meaning from experience” (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p. 36). This learning theory resonates with me as I learn best through doing. I am a self-motivated student or a self-directed learner (SDL). Constructivism “is a humanistic, learner-centred practice that assists adult learning in reflecting on their experience in order to construct new knowledge” (Fenwick, 2001, p. 9). Constructivism is a newer learning theory and draws from theorists such as Jean Piaget, John Dewey, and Lev Vygotsky.

Why I selected this Theory

As noted above, constructivism is learning through experience. The learning is in the hands of the learner and is facilitated by an instructor. This is how I conduct my sailing courses. I never touch the helm when I am teaching. I allow my students to learn and fail as needed and I facilitate their learning environment and offer different scenarios for them to use their skills. Truthfully, when it comes to sailing, I am constantly learning through trying different experiences as well. Either the weather is different, the crew is different, or the boat is different.

Overall, I would say that I am a very hands-on person. I am tactile. I find many of my students are as well. Sailing provides an environment of on-the-spot learning and experimentation for students. Jean Piaget was the theorist who primarily looked at constructivism through the lens of experience and experimentation with others. This is key in my sailing courses as there are so many factors that contribute to my students’ experiences on the water and shape what they learn. In turn, I could argue that I am also in the role of a student as I learn how to adapt my teaching styles from experiences and feedback provided by my students. Likewise, the students will experience different things depending on who they are learning with and what the environment is during their course.

Role of the Learner  

The learner plays a big role in constructivism. In fact, the responsibility of learning a task is placed on the student and is reflected through their ability to repeat the task. According to John Dewey, “An educative experience, […], is an experience in which we make a connection between what we do to things and what happens to them or us in consequence” (Soltis, para. 12). Likewise, Dewey “believed that it is only through experience that man learns about the world and only by the use of his experience that man can maintain and better himself in the world” (Soltis, para. 13).

Self-reflection, and critical self-reflection, play a key role in constructivism. The learner must reflect on what they have experienced and try to apply that new skill in other situations. As Lev Vignosty believed, “the teachers and students collaborate in learning and practicing four key skills: summarizing, questioning, clarifying, and predicting. The teacher’s role in the process is reduced over time” (McLoed, 2014, para. 60). This is a clear example of how the teacher removes him/herself from a teaching situation in order for the students to continue to explore the learning on their own. The students past experiences and knowledge also play a big role in how they will learn. For example, if I have a student who grew up with a cottage on a lake paddling canoes in the summer, he may have some idea of how the weather affects your experience out on the water while sailing. However, if I have a student who recently immigrated to Canada and who does not know how to swim, he may have a harder time grasping how to become confident out on the water (and I have taught a lot of students who do not know how to swim!).

Role of the Instructor

As noted above, the instructor plays the role of a facilitator. The instructor is there to provide guidance and support; however the students are responsible for taking the steps necessary and completing the work. However, the teacher must acknowledge the needs of the learners. “Piaget’s theory of constructivism impacts learning curriculum because teachers have to make a curriculum plan which enhances their students’ logical and conceptual growth. Teachers must put emphasis on the significant role that experiences—or connections with the adjoining atmosphere—play in student education.” (Unknown, 2016, para. 2).

The instructor must be a sort of coach or mentor for the students and provide them with the tools they need to thrive, without telling them what to do. The students must have choices. Therefore, the teacher must engage the students and challenge them, all while providing them with the tools they need to succeed and overcome any difficulties.

 Three Classroom Examples

  1. Knots

A big part of sailing is being able to tie knots. If you cannot tie a proper knot, you may not find your boat at the dock the next day! Knots are generally a fun and entertaining way to spend a couple of hours with the students. I generally teach them the basic “essential” sailing knots (eight knot, reef knot, bowline, etc.), then we practice. We first practice in the classroom with a special board that I have which has a variety of pulleys and cleats on it. Then, as we move out onto the boats, I ask the students to demonstrate the knots in a variety of places on the boat. Throughout the lessons I will ask them to untie and re-tie knots, as well as provide me with alternate knots to be used in certain situations. This is a way for me to assess their learning, and a way for them to brainstorm new ways to use the skills they just acquired.

  1. Points of Sail

Another aspect of sailing that requires constant “thinking” would be the points of sail. Let’s face it, the wind never comes from where we want it to! The wind is a living thing. It is always moving, and as such, the students always have to be aware of where it is and how to adjust their sails. There are 5 main points of sail (for each tack), and the students need to adjust the sails accordingly for each one. On a white board in a classroom where the wind is “steady”, this is easy. Get out on the water and get too close to land you will all of a sudden have to deal with the mountain effect. Or maybe there is a gust. Or a squall. Or a lull. The students have to constantly be aware of where the wind is. As the instructor, I give them tips on how to read their sails, but then I leave it up to them to feel if the boat is moving the way it should.

  1. Anchoring

Anchoring is another area of trial and error. I teach the students how to read charts and how to identify safe anchorages. However, they may arrive at an anchorage and find there are other boats there. Then what? What if the wind shifts around and you are no longer protected? What do you do? Or worse, what happens if your anchor loses its grip? All of these scenarios are taught and practiced as much as possible, but until the students are out there getting their hands wet, they will not know how well one response will work over another. Again, they need to learn through doing.


In summary, I find that constructivism is the most pertinent learning theory for my trade and my experience. I learn new things through doing on a daily basis. My students learn things through doing and I simply guide them to the best of my abilities and provide support when they need it. I provide them with a safe place to learn and fail. I try to better myself with each new course I teach so that the next course can be better than the last.





Author Unknown. (2016). Piaget’s Theory of Constructivism. Retrieved from

Fenwick, T. (2001). Experiential Learning: A Theoretical Critique from Five Perspectives. Information Series No. 385.

McLeod, S. (2014). Lev Vygotsky. Retrieved from

Merriam, S. and Bierema, L. (2014). Adult Learning Linking Theory and Practice. Traditional Learning Theories.

Soltis, J. (ND). John Dewey (1859—1952) – Experience and Reflective Thinking, Learning, School and Life, Democracy and Education. Retrieved from