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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

When One Teacher Can Make All The Difference

Most teachers are great. Some...not so much.

So far, for the most part anyway (fingers crossed), the 6yr old and the 8yr old have had teachers who have given them a great start to their school education.

The same, however, can not always be said for their swimming instructors over the years. We’ve had some real doozies. At the first swim centre both boys attended, for some reason the swimming instructors there both decided they would just dump them under the water, without notice. That little plan cost us over a year with the 8yr old’s progress, and about 6 months with the 6yr old.

When the 8yr old (then 5) finally started to become confident enough to lay his head right back in the water during his back float, his teacher at his new swim centre decided to just let him go. He fell under, swallowed a bucket load of water, and once again – his progress was on hold. In fact, he went backwards for quite some time.

Finally, at the end of his Kindy year, the 8yr old went to swimming lessons with his school. I think that the repetitiveness of going 4 days in a row for 2 weeks really helped. At the time, he also had a new teacher at the swim centre who was very patient with him, as well as very encouraging. Together with the school lessons, and her help, he moved up a class within a matter of weeks. I remember having tears of joy and relief when it happened, and it’s always makes me smile to think of how genuinely excited she was for him at the time. A great swimming teacher.

Since then, both the 6yr old and 8yr old have progressed in leaps and bounds. They’re not racing up the levels - not by any stretch of the imagination - but they’re doing ok. They can swim. They’re confident, and I feel confident of their ability when they’re in the water.

The 3yr old started his swimming lessons at the beginning of this year. Apart from his initial hesitation, he settled in very quickly to his weekly lesson. In fact, his progress was probably much faster than that of his older brothers' at the same age. It was all going well. Very well. 

And imagine my excitement, after I managed to change him to a slightly later class on a Monday morning, to find he had the same swimming teacher that had encouraged the 8yr old! And then imagine my disappointment at the end of that same class when she announced she would not be his teacher any longer due to timetable changes. *Forehead slap*

He got yet another new teacher. She seemed nice. Friendly, encouraging etc. But then a few weeks ago, after a couple of lessons with her, this teacher was returning him to the platform by the edge of the pool. His head was down, face completely in the water. He hadn’t quite got to the stage yet of trying to paddle his way to the water’s edge. In fact, even reaching out was proving a challenge. Everything else was great though. He was putting his face in. He was allowing the teacher to assist him in swimming under the water. He even jumped in to the pool off the mat floating on the surface of the water at the end of each class, striking a Superman pose just before his jump. He was having fun. He was confident.

But on this day, three weeks ago, his teacher left him to his own devices. There he was, face down. I watched, waiting for the teacher to pick him up and assist him to the side. No doubt, she thought she’d leave him to try and work it out – perhaps to see if she could prompt something in him that resembled a swimming motion of sorts. He did nothing. He just lay there, face down, trying ever so slightly to wriggle his body to move. I waited for her to see the signs that he wasn’t going anywhere too soon, but still, she observed only. I moved to the edge of my seat, ready to run over and pull him up. I hesitated, only because I put trust in the idea that she knew what she was doing, and I didn’t want to act like an over anxious mother (because really, I’m not).

And still, he lay in the water. That’s when I saw him start to struggle. I could imagine, instantly, how he felt. He was no doubt starting to panic, and was trying to take in a breath. He started to thrash around a little. No swimming motion though, just a thrash. Finally, his teacher lifted him out of the water.

When I write it, it sounds as though it was probably longer than what it was. But by the same token, it was too long. He was face down in that water for much longer than what he should have been.

Obviously, he was upset afterwards. He was spluttering and crying at the same time. After that, he no longer wanted to put his head in the water. (Who could blame him?)

Since then, he has not been keen to go to swimming lessons. He keeps saying, “I don’t want to put my head in the water.” I know it will pass eventually, but in the meantime, I can’t help but wonder how much time we will lose over this? There’s nothing more frustrating than watching your child spend a whole swimming lesson, week in and week out, trying to gain enough confidence to put his head in the water – just once – especially after he previously had no problem with doing so.

Fingers crossed, the mistakes will be few and far between from hereon, because it’s really costing the 3yr old his confidence, and me my sanity!



jessica said...

that would drive me nuts! I watched a kid almost drown and I've been haunted every since. Frankly, I would remove him from the class for good. You are not being over anxious, not in my book

Thea Smith said...

This is exactly why I have chosen NOT to put my kids in swimming lessons...and feel like a very bad mum because in Australia we made to feel we HAVE to. But I was pushed into the pool by my first swimming teacher as a kid, I couldn't swim, I hated water for a long time after that.
We are very lucky that my husband's parents have a swimming pool and we visit them every weekend. (We won't be getting in now that Summer has gone though) and I used to teach the kids swimming at school so I know a little bit. It's all about water confidence at this age and my 5yo who has always been over cautious got very confident just this past summer. My 2yo is super confident, she thinks she can swim already!!

Ami said...

Oh my gosh Jodie, my heart was racing when I read that. How awful. I hate swimming probably because I'm not very good at it. I nearly drowned when I was about 12 while we were having a day out at the dam. Ever since then I've been more of a land girl than a water baby! Funny considering I married a sailor!

I think it's great for kids to learn to swim, but the whole throw them in and see what happens really freaks me out. Hope the 3 yr old gets his confidence back soon. xx

MegsyJ said...

That is so frustrating. And upsetting.

I almost dread the day when my daughter hits the age of going to swimming lessons without me in the pool with her. At the moment it's nice having control over what's done with her in the water!

Good luck xo