I Don’t Want To!

If there is a phrase that I hate most whilst teaching swimming it’s “I don’t want to.”  Excuse me?  Since when have children been given the right to decide what they can and can’t do in a swimming lesson?  I usually retort back; you wouldn’t be allowed to say that in school, so why do you think you can say it here?  I can understand older children (around twelve years old) coming out with some stubborn comment as they have got to the age where they are flexing their independent views, but a five year old?

Call me old fashioned, but when I was at primary school, it didn’t even enter my head to question the authority of my teachers whether it was in school or outside of it.  I suppose I’m lucky in the fact that none of my students have told me to fuck off, but I guess that as the years go by, unfortunately, it becomes increasingly likely.  Recently, I have had to explain on more than one occasion to children and parents, why the phrase “I don’t want to" isn't

acceptable in swimming lessons.  The reason is safety.  I might be teaching a child to swim, but more importantly than that child learning to swim is their safety.  If a child has been put into a dangerous situation, a fire alarm going off for example, I need to be able to get that child out of the pool with absolutely no fuss involved; I simply can’t be dealing with “I don’t want to”.  The phrase also shows a lack of respect to the teacher, their knowledge and authority and if this attitude is supported by the parents, why bother paying for swimming lessons, as the child isn’t going to achieve anything.

Different swimming teachers use varying methods to get round stubbornness.  I personally like to find out why the child doesn’t want to.  It isn’t always successful at the first attempt and quite often the parents are more successful in finding out why because they have more time and should know their child a lot better than me.  I can accept “I am scared” or “I don’t understand what you are asking me to do”, I can work with those kinds of comments.  For example, a little girl I taught until recently needed to pass jumping into the swimming pool without a woggle, she wasn’t even jumping in with a woggle.  So when I had the opportunity to have a one-to-one with her, she had her warm-up and then I told her we would spend the rest of the lesson jumping in.  We started where she was comfortable, sitting on the side, falling in with a woggle round her and gradually moved through the progressive stages (all within one lesson) until by the end of the lesson, she was jumping in and swimming a width of the pool without a woggle in sight.  All the time I asked how she felt about what she was doing and she always knew why she was doing it.  It was a very rewarding lesson.

Like other teachers, I don’t make requests, I tell the swimmers.  This can be misinterpreted as a request, but the child soon finds out otherwise.  If the child simply doesn’t want to and there is no underlying reason why, say well the others are doing it or keep sending them back to the end of the queue until they get the message, whilst praising the other swimmers.  If it’s really disrupting the lesson, the child will simply have to get out and sit by the wall and have time out.  It’s extremely important to have an open dialogue with the parents and for them to be on your side, if they side with child over the fact that the child doesn’t 

want to get their face wet, for example, quite frankly you are on a loosing battle.

Festive Swimming

Santa Claus
Festive Swimming Logo

In October, I wrote a blog on a Halloween themed swimming lesson that gained a huge amount of interest.  This surprised me slightly as Halloween does not have the same kind of following here as in the United States, on the other hand, everyone loves Christmas, even those who mutter “Bah Humbug!” in November.

As everyone winds down for Christmas, there is not really any point in doing a too structured lesson plan for children, as their attention will be elsewhere and they will probably be too tired due to late nights, school nativity and other festive activities.  The key is to keep everything light hearted and fun and not to worry if they don’t show any progression during the lesson.  However, children do progress through pure play such as jumping in without a woggle for the first time or swimming independently over a short distance to get to safety.

One piece of equipment that is worth investing in is a Santa hat or more than one if money can stretch that far.  I bought my own children’s from Sainsbury’s at £2 each, but it is worth looking in pound shops or online at EBay and Amazon for cheaper deals.  It would be great to see lots of little Santas in the swimming pool on their reindeer (see paragraph below) and the hats can soon be chucked into the washing machine for a gentle wash after the lessons.  Another idea (depending on the acoustics and audio equipment) is to play Christmas songs throughout the lesson.  I tried playing Slade one year, but the kids were so noisy that we couldn’t hear the music!

I asked my friend Julie Bloomfield (a swimming teacher for more years than she probably cares to mention) what games she uses at Christmas.  The first game she suggests is imagining the swimming pool as a street of houses and using woggles as make believe reindeer, the swimmers have to fly over the rooftops whilst sitting astride (usually known as seahorses) them.  The children are told how many lengths they have to race whilst listening out for the all important “Ho-Ho-Ho!”.  On hearing “Ho-Ho-Ho!”, everyone has to jump as high as they can whilst staying on their reindeer and then continue to race until the next “Ho-Ho-Ho!”. The winner of the race becomes Father Christmas.

Using a large float, each swimmer pretends to be Father Christmas delivering presents down the chimney.  As they jump to go down the chimney (or jumping into the swimming pool), the Santas have to shout “Ho-Ho-Ho!” as loud as they can.  For more advance students, they have to make themselves as tall and slim as possible, so they don’t get stuck down the imaginary chimney.

Splitting the swim group into two and still using a large float, group one sits on the float and pretends to be Santa and his elves and group two are the reindeer pulling and pushing the sleigh (float).  If you have more than one large float, get teams to race against each other.

Swimmers who can float confidently on their backs can use their star floats in synchro to join together to make snowflake formations – this is a lot harder than it sounds!

Children love to pretend to be animals, so I sometimes get my lot to be penguins.  Walking along side the pool, heel to heel (which I find helps emphasise the dorsi-flex position in breast stroke) and sticking their hands out like flippers, when they get to the other end of the pool, they have to jump in like a penguin.  Such a simple game, but it does go down extremely well.

Don’t forget that you can make structures out of woggles – how about a gingerbread house that floats?  Maybe you could hide sweeties in it too and it could be an exploration game.

These are just a few ideas, but through talking to your swimmers and letting your imagination go riot, you are bound to come up with some activities that your children will love and ask for again next year.

Christmas Candy