As a swimming teacher I teach 6 days of the week, Monday-Friday after school and Saturday mornings. After doing this every single week for the last 2 and a half years I have decided it’s time to stop teaching on Saturdays and spend the weekends at home with my own family. I had 3 very excited, happy little children at home this weekend, but many more upset little children at the pool as I worked my final Saturday.
It wasn’t an easy decision like you may think. In fact I have constantly changed my mind about stopping for the last 14 months. You see, I don’t just spend half an hour teaching your child to swim then go home and think nothing more about it. I care very much about each and every child I teach (which is well over 100 of them every week!). I may only spend half an hour a week with them but in that half hour I am with them as they face their darkest fears. I feel them shaking and clinging to me for dear life. I hold them and comfort them as they scream and reach out for you sitting over there at the side of the pool watching. And I know that for you as a parent it is heartbreaking, because I am a parent too and it breaks my heart to see them upset just as much as it breaks yours. I spend weeks, months, sometimes even years building your child’s confidence, building their trust in me, celebrating their small successes – such as managing to get their chin in the water to blow a bubble without choking on half the pool. I give them the biggest high five when they manage to put their face in the water and I pick them up and give the loudest cheer when they jump in without holding my hand for the very first time. I have often been told I have the patience of a saint. I have received cards from parents (and children!) thanking me. But if I didn’t have that patience to encourage them in those tiny little baby steps then I wouldn’t be any good at my job.
As a swimming teacher I see your child who is terrified of water and hear her screaming from the car park as you drag her in and I wonder if her new teacher will be as patient as me. I see your son who thinks that at 4 years of age he can swim across the whole pool and regularly lets go of his floats in an attempt to do so – he certainly keeps me on my toes and I worry how his new teacher will cope. I see your tweenager glaring at you because she’d rather be out with her mates and I know the battle you’ve had in the car on the way here. I wonder if she will hate swimming even more when she has a new instructor. I see your autistic son who finds change very difficult and I understand your concerns over him having a new teacher, because I have those concerns too. I see your daughter who is very quiet and shy and has only just started to speak to me (occasionally) in the last few months and I wonder how long it will be before she speaks to her new teacher. I see your son who I have spent an entire year encouraging to do a push and glide without holding on to me and he is so, so nearly there and I wonder how long it will take for him to build up that trust in his new teacher.
You see I know each and every one of your children. I know their strengths, I know their weaknesses. I know what they like and what they don’t like. I know how to deal with them when they are having a bad day. I know what key words help them to remember how to do things. I know just how much to push them to do their best and when to take a step back because it is just too much. I know which ones need extra time and patience with the care of a loving mother and which ones need me to be strict and firm because if I give them an inch they’ll take a mile.
I know too that you are desperate for them to move up to the next stage. I know you feel frustrated like they have been stuck in the same class forever and that they aren’t getting anywhere, but know that they are. It may be in small baby steps but they are getting there and they will move up to the next stage, but only when they are truly ready. Sometimes you ask me how long will it be? Well, every child is different and every child will do it at their own speed. I want them to pass just as much as you do, because if they aren’t improving then I am not doing my job properly. But at the same time, I do not want to put them in to a class that they are not ready for. I know how soul destroying it can be to be trailing miles behind your classmates when you are struggling to keep up. I know how frightening it is to have a near drowning experience because you were put into a higher class before you were ready. I know because I’ve been there. I had swimming lessons myself as a child and I struggled. I had to be pulled out of the water by my teacher and it frightened me to death. I don’t want your child to go through that. So trust me when I tell you they are not ready yet. I teach well over 100 children a week and have done for the last 12 years. I know what I’m talking about. Rest assured that I will do everything I can for your child to make sure they grow into confident, capable swimmers, with a keen love of the water. Giving up my Saturday lessons was a very difficult decision to make. I will continue to keep in touch with their new teacher and check on their progress. And for those I still teach Monday-Friday I will continue to do my best for you.
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