Parents, children and teachers (doesn’t matter what the subject is), are not always a winning combination; but why is this so? Before I go any further, I would like to point out that I am a mother of three children, a girl who is eleven in April and two boys who are eight and six and whatever your vocation in life is; you will sometimes make mistakes as you are human. I believe that quite simply that more and more parents are pandering to their offspring too much to the detriment of society as a whole. I am now imagining a few readers are now rolling their eyes and thinking, “She has got to get off her soapbox”, but please, just let me explain my case.
I have a friend who is a swimming teacher of three years experience as fully qualified. Anna* is extremely hard working, intelligent and tries her best. She cares deeply about her swimming pupils and tries to help them to reach their full potential. Like all teachers, she does paperwork in her free time (swimming teachers do not get paid for work off poolside, but are still expected to do it), as well as funds all her own courses. Quite simply, Anna loves her job as it is rewarding.
THERE'S A RIGHT TIME FOR EVERYTHING
Recently, Anna received a Facebook private message from a parent who isn’t on her friends list, but they are slightly acquainted outside of swimming lessons. The message was along the lines of “Hi Anna, can I bring Natalia* to the 11.30 am sessions rather than the 11.00 am so she can stay with Francesca* and Sophie*? Would be a shame to split them now they’ve made such good friends.” Now obviously the parent thought it was ok to Facebook and expect an answer straight away. But quite frankly, Anna found this to be completely inconsiderate of her personal time (it was during holidays and also the message was sent out of office hours; plus the parent had email and telephone contacts for the business Anna works for) and an abuse of her Facebook account that she considers to be strictly for personal and social use only; she also felt that the message was undermining her boss’s authority as it was Anna who was required to make the final decision by the next morning (Anna does get a lot of freedom when it comes to movement in classes, but it is her boss who gets paid for organising the swimming lessons). At the first opportunity that evening, Anna telephoned her boss and said how unhappy she was to be contacted in this way, as it was an infringement on her privacy. Anna’s superior was in complete agreement and it was decided that the Facebook message would be ignored, but if Natalia did show for the later session, it would be churlish not to let her swim.
HOW TO HAVE A HARMONIOUS TEACHER/PARENT/CHILD RELATIONSHIP:
Explain to your child that their swimming teacher should be shown the same respect that should be given to their schoolteacher.
If there is a problem, contact the teacher during the swimming lesson or through the contact details provided and not their personal contact information.
A good swimming teacher will always listen to a problem and try and find a solution, but please do not think you know better than they do without an explanation.
Sometimes there might be a problem that you as a parent might not be aware of that the teacher has picked up on. It will help your child, if you can listen to what the problem is and try any solutions (or come up with your own!) that the teacher suggests.
There can be personality clashes between teachers/children, but if the teacher is professional, they should not let this interfere with the lessons.
Remember no one is perfect! We are after all, only human!
Fast forward to the next morning and the start of a new term. The first three lessons went well and Anna felt happy and relaxed. The start of lesson four came and went and Natalia didn’t show. At this no-show, Anna was feeling disgruntled at potentially having to deal with a child and parent who were expecting to swim in the wrong group. 11.30 am on the dot and Natalia arrives on poolside, with her father visible through the glass of the double doors; at which point Anna was furious at the audacity of both parents. Anna was so angry, that she had said to her helper that she wasn’t prepared to speak to the parent incase she said something that was wholly inappropriate. Unfortunately, Anna slipped up, as Natalia was close by and Anna demanded angrily to the child why was she here and that she shouldn’t be swimming in this particular session. In the meantime, Anna’s helper had been engaged by Natalia’s father, who was saying that Natalia’s stroke was up to the standard of the rest of the group and wanted to know what the response was to his daughter being moved up.
At this point, I would like to revisit the theme of the opening paragraph of this article and explain why I believe Natalia’s parents have pandered to her and why they are in the wrong to have dealt with the situation in the way they did. I have already explained why it was wrong for the mother to contact Anna via Facebook, but what about turning up at the wrong session without clearance? Firstly, it severely undermines the authority of the teacher. All teachers deserve and need respect from parents and children to help deliver a good quality lesson. If they do not have these basic requirements, it can potentially lead to a disruptive class (which in water is a very dangerous situation) and the teacher’s confidence in their abilities and self-esteem will be slowly eroded away. I appreciate the reason why the parents wanted Natalia to move up (Anna was informed that Natalia had thrown a tantrum when she found out that her friends were moving up, but she wasn’t and she had told her mother that she wouldn’t swim anymore if she wasn’t moved up), but quite frankly, friendship groups are not top of the list when it comes to group movement.
HEALTH AND SAFETY COMES FIRST
The reason why friendship groups are not top of the priority list for swimming lessons is that the sessions are based on ability. The swimming teacher needs to be able to teach at the correct level and this cannot be achieved if there is too much differentiation in a single group. Yes, there are minor differences between each student and these can be catered for, but too much variation and the less able will hold back the more able and potentially, loose heart due to the difficulty of the lesson and will not be as safe. Natalia put her heart and soul into her strokes, which were lovely, but she just didn’t possess the stamina required for the group’s level and she clearly struggled over the extra distance set.
Health and safety was also completely disregarded in this situation too. Swimming teachers have to consider the pool load (the maximum number of people allowed in the pool), the number of children in the group (the parents didn’t know if the higher group was full or not) and how many children Anna is allowed to teach in accordance with her ASA level 2 qualification (another piece of information the parents wouldn’t know). If any of these rules (with the exception of how full the group was) had been breached and an accident had happened, Anna and her place of work would have been liable and all down to the selfish actions of one family.
It saddens me that the whole situation was handled extremely badly. I don’t believe that any parent should give into a child’s tantrum to the detriment of others. If this had been a lesson held at ‘proper’ school, it would have been impossible for the parents to have taken such liberties. Yes, it might have been a voluntary swimming lesson, but at the end of the day, people’s livelihoods are affected and it is a business. Children can’t and shouldn’t be protected by life’s little disappointments, as they are going to be in for a huge shock when they reach adulthood and find they can’t have their own way after all. My daughter wanted to be moved up for exactly the same reasons at her swimming club.
Now I don’t see a problem with having a chat with the teacher at a time that suits both parties, especially, as her swimming was being affected by the fact that she wasn’t with her friends. Both Tim (my daughter's swimming teacher) and I tried to tell her what she needed to improve on, but to know avail. What I didn’t know until it was too late, that India was asking every week when she was going to be moved up and Tim was getting more than a little irritated by this. To cut a long story short, the situation blew up one night and India threw a massive tantrum. It was then decided that swimming club was not for her any longer and my husband and I told her she was leaving. We also made the point of telling her, how ashamed we were with her behaviour and that she wasn’t to repeat that kind of behaviour again, because it was embarrassing.
Unfortunately, the situation with Anna and Natalia has ended badly as Natalia has stopped swimming because of Anna’s outburst (the mother made a complaint). I believe that Natalia would have stopped swimming anyway, as Anna wasn’t prepared to move her up to the desired group. In the end, it is Natalia who will suffer on two levels, her swimming lessons and any social connection with her friends have ended and she has been taught to have a scant regard to people in authority.
*Some names have been changed.