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.