Here is a difficult question: As a swimming teacher how far are you prepared to push a child into achieving the goals of their swimming certificate? To be honest, judging it correctly is hit and miss. I’ve had parents say that I do not push their children and then I’ve had parents say that I’m pushing their children too hard! Ahhhhhh! Talk
about being caught between a rock and a hard place. The situation is then made even more frustrating if the parents then give notice to quit and you as a swimming teacher don’t know this is happening until it’s too late and you have missed the opportunity to actually sit down and discuss the situation with all the parties involved.
Over the years that I have been teaching, I have come up with a set standard for each of the series of certificates and I find that is a huge help to put my lessons together. For example, for STAnley 7, I expect all my swimmers to be able to swim a length of both back crawl and front crawl, I also expect them to put their faces in the water and jump into the pool (which is a depth of 1.4 metres) unaided. I have been told my standards are high and that is a good thing; it also means that unfortunately I have to nag swimmers continually all the time to get their faces in the water and I hate doing it; especially with the children who just don’t knuckle down and do it. I tend to find it is the more nervy swimmers who refuse to put their faces in the water and I do take the time to explain why they must do so, i.e. that it is better for their backs, it makes swimming easier as you are more streamlined in the water. I also give the children homework and I speak to the parents about it too. The homework is very simple, just to get used to putting their faces in the water at bath time.
I have recently had two sisters, who are particularly timid, leave my Saturday morning sessions and one of the reasons was because that I hadn’t pushed the older sister hard enough. I had asked the father to get his daughter to practice putting her face in the water and apparently she had done it, so they thought because she wasn’t doing it for me, I wasn’t pushing her hard enough. Now other than verbally getting a child to do something, what can I do? Hold her under the water? I do adjust my teaching methods to the personality of the child, but I only see the children for half an hour once a week. There is no way that I am going to know exactly what make these children tick; their parents know them better than anyone. The parents are in a much better position to push their children than anyone else; I have to frequently tell my ten year old son (Luke likes to procrastinate and I have to physically sit beside him) to get his bloody homework done, but if I swore at a child at work, it would be goodbye job.
In the autumn term just gone, I was told by my boss that I had to start taking two of my non swimmers under the water, just the once, each lesson. Well they both hated it, even though I used a method that is gentle and used with babies in mother and baby classes, they also had been told why I was doing it, along with their parents. It actually led to one of the parents giving verbal notice on the swimming lessons at the end of term. In truth, I have never had a child give notice because they don’t like going under (at some point, as long as they continue with the swimming lessons, they will have to) and I was determined this wasn’t going to be the first. So we have reached a compromise, both children have to submerge their faces in water at least once a session at a sensible speed – no skimming the water type action. They are both happy with this and the lessons are progressing, albeit at a snail’s pace.
A swimming teacher’s hands (or any kind of teacher for that matter) are tied by rules and regulations and we can’t second guess what a child is truly capable of with only half an hour spent each week with them. There needs to be open communication and an understanding of what can and can’t be done between all parties before notice to quit is even considered.