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Creating water-wise children

I’m sure many of you have seen the video of a small, unsupervised toddler falling into a swimming pool and “self rescuing” himself. We have heard many individuals proclaim how incredible this video is and how all children should be able to do this. We have also heard of programs in our area that teach this technique. However, the part that this video does not show is the traumatic and abusive methods used to teach that child how to rescue himself.

The Infant Self Rescue technique is not something we approve of or condone in any way. Tossing a child into the water and forcing them to struggle to save themselves when an adult is standing within reach is a form of abuse. Betraying the child’s trust and making them fearful of water goes against everything we believe. However, creating water-wise children who can save themselves if absolutely necessary is our goal.

We want our students to trust us and enjoy swimming. We want them to laugh and love coming to class. We want to create life-long swimmers who can appreciate the joys of water their entire lives! And in order to do that, we have to make swimming an enjoyable priority. We do this through games, songs, and laughter. You may notice a little more “play” in our lower levels and that is because we believe that in order for a child to learn how to swim, they must first learn how to enjoy water. A child who enjoys coming to swimming lessons and completely trusts their instructor will flourish. So if you see an instructor playing a game or singing songs, be assured that they are doing so in order to help the children enjoy the water. A fearful child cannot be expected to learn how to swim, because their primary focus is their own safety.

There are several programs we have pulled from and adapted to create our infant/toddler and preschool programs. The premise of our program is based on the United States Swim School Association‘s Infant/Toddler Curriculum. This can be seen in all of our classes, from small class size to the warm water temperatures. We have also worked with some of the industry’s leading experts to create an enjoyable, comfortable atmosphere for our students. We believe that children are the most successful when they are in a class where they trust the instructor and are comfortable exploring.

Not only have we learned from the experts, but we have also created our own guidelines and structure for our program. With over 25 years of experience in aquatic education, we have learned what works and what does not. We know that not every student is going to “hit it off” with all their instructors and sometimes you have to find the right fit. We also know that before we can create a comfortable environment for our students, we have to create instructors who know how to be exceptional teachers. With the help of the USSSA training programs and others in our industry, we are constantly striving to provide the world-class service we know our customers deserve and expect. In an effort to provide the best swimming lessons possible, we have established Eleven Teaching Principles that our staff follows. These principles guide our instructors and our classes and we would like to share them with our customers.

Our Eleven Teaching Principles

  1. Respect – Respect is unconditional.  Treating kids with respect will teach them to respect you.  Teachers are authority figures.  Students care about what you think of them.  It is great to be silly and have fun, but they need to know there are boundaries that they do not cross.  In turn, teachers must take care when discussing things both in front of the students and with other people.  Harsh words can leave lasting pain.

  2. Keep the kids safe – Following the rules keeps kids safe.  Be consistent in correcting misbehavior – they will respect you and trust you because they can count on you to be consistent.  Inconsistency is confusing and an unruly class is dangerous.

  3. Clearly communicate expectations – Good teachers let students know exactly what they expect from them.  Even if you told them last week, you’ll probably have to tell them again!  It’s important to communicate with parents too.  If you need a certain behavior from a child, don’t hesitate to talk to a parent.  It’s best to solve issues right away instead of letting them grow and become worse.  Behavior doesn’t change without communication.  It is your job to communicate.

  4. Catch kids doing things right – It is a lot more fun to watch for what they do right than for what they do wrong.  However, we look for ways that they can do things even better.  Sincere praise to a child is like sunshine and water to a flower – they will bloom and grow.

  5. Discipline is natural consequences – There is a consequence for every behavior.  Sometimes we like the consequence, sometimes we don’t.  When you choose good behavior, there are good consequences.  When you make bad choices, there are bad consequences.  Consequences have to make sense to kids.  If they can’t stay where they are told – they must sit in time-out.  If they come off the swim gym – they go under (not too long).

  6. Be enthusiastic – Enthusiasm is contagious!  Be positive.  It’s important that the kids know that you believe in them, that you know that they can do it!  Show them with your words and your facial expressions.  Enthusiastic teachers go the extra mile to get students to do whatever is necessary for the student to learn.

  7. Daily challenges – If you expect a lot from your students, they will try hard to achieve your goals for them.  Every lesson must challenge the student.  If you’re not moving forward, you are falling behind.

 8.   Daily Successes – All humans must experience success to maintain motivation.  As teachers, we must find a way for each of our students to experience at least some level of success during every lesson.  These successes must be celebrated with high fives and shared with parents as thumbs ups.

 9.  Perpetual Motion – Kids are the epitome of perpetual motion.  They are constantly moving.  Our lessons should reflect this characteristic.  More time on task and practice is equal to improved learning.  Be creative, find ways to control the class but make the most of their time.

10.  Creativity, Variety, Fun – This is the environment most conducive to learning.  Though we follow a basic lesson plan, the outstanding teachers are the ones who make the classes fun using creativity and variety.

11.  Love, Empathy, Compassion – If you think about the people you love the most, they would probably be described in this manner.  As teachers, it is okay to love your students.  It is expected that you have compassion when they have a bad day.  Be excited when it is their birthday.  Say “Hi” and give smiles and hugs if you see them out in public.  You are an important part of their life!!

This is what we strive for and that is our goal for each of our students. We are passionate about aquatic education and water safety. We do this because we love children and we want to see them grow. This is what we do and we hope that we are doing it well!

If you have questions about our curriculum or the difference between our program and infant survival swimming, please contact us. We would be more than happy to share more information.

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