Now that my ski-teaching season is over, I've been reflecting a lot on my teaching, what I learned, and how to teach more effectively.
I had to admit to myself that I went into this winter with the idea that learning centering would enable everyone to improve radically, almost as if by magic. When I put it that way, the idea looks pretty ridiculous. Certain students had major breakthroughs through centering and focusing on the breath, but in general, while a few minutes' instruction followed by consistent admonitions of "remember to breathe" may have sped up learning (hard to know for sure), it was no panacea.
What I didn't understand with sufficient clarity was this: People bring deeply held patterns of stress with them. The process of learning a new skill will dredge those patterns up from the sediments of the students' lives.
Getting students to center and breathe freely on flat ground while not moving worked pretty well. But as soon as they did something that took them out of their comfort zone--which, for some first-timers, came as soon as we started to practice side-stepping (the second skill we practiced once we got both skis on, after sliding around on flat terrain), and hit almost all of them the first time they went up the magic carpet and saw that even on the minimal slope of the bunny hill, being unable to control one's speed could have serious consequences--patterns of stress in the body generally came clearly to the fore.
Thus the question that's dominating my reflections: How do we most efficiently replace those patterns of stress with patterns of flow?