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  #1  
Old 04-13-2009
LBRoberts LBRoberts is offline
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Default Swimming Teaching

I shadowed some swimming teaching last Sunday as I want to do some part-time swimming teaching without giving up my day job. While the teachers had a great rapport with the students I was amazed they had such a wide range of abilities and ages in one class. They were asking kids to use a float to practice one arm front crawl but - aside from the fact that isn't a great way to teach the stroke - some kids couldn't get their arms over the float as their arms were too short. The poor things were trying so hard at something that was never going to work I felt very sad. And as there were so many kids there was no feedback to the individual kids.

I withdrew my offer of working there part time. I'm definitely going to teach my daughter myself after what I've seen.

I think it's time to look again at becoming a TI teacher!

Laurie

Last edited by LBRoberts : 04-13-2009 at 03:48 PM.
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  #2  
Old 04-13-2009
terry terry is offline
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I'm reminded over and over of how clueless the vast majority of swimming instructors are. It's not for lack of good intentions, but a profound lack of understanding of the basic facts of: (1) the physical laws that influence how a human body behaves in a fluid medium, and (2) the powerful sense of physical discomfort and emotional/psychological vulnerability most novice swimmers experience while learning to swim.
Preparation and training for swim instructors - where it exists - seems to have completely missed those factors altogether.
Recently the local college, where I swim 3 to 4 times a week, began offering swim lessons. I see at least one taking place every time I go swim. Without exception what I see makes me cringe.
Both teachers and students seem to be part of the student body. The teachers probably can swim, after a fashion (i.e. negotiate a few laps without drowning - though I've yet to witness any demonstrate that), but don't seem to know the first thing about teaching someone else. Even so, some representative of the college has deemed them qualified to teach others (which says something about the low value given to being truly skilled at teaching swimming -- are golf or tennis ever taught this poorly?)
As I watch the lessons, it's obvious that these teachers are just as earnest and well-intentioned as they are clueless, so it's unfortunate on both sides. Their earnestness and energy are wasted. They miss out on seeing a satisfying outcome to their efforts.
And those trying to learn swimming are rewarded for their efforts with an hour of utterly wasted time, spent in pointless and awkward activities that mainly reinforce their sense that: (1) swimming is an inherently difficult -- and mystifying -- thing to learn; (2) learning it requires hours of discomfort and frustration; and (3) about all they can aspire to themselves is "drown prevention" - i.e. After hours of dogged determination, they might be able -- like their teachers -- to negotiate a lap or two without drowning.

Adult learners can at least rationalize this discouraging experience with the thought that swimming is said to be "good medicine" so I should stick it out. Children, lacking that motivation, are likely to just conclude they'd be better off staying dry.

When you've seen how easy and enjoyable learning to swim can be, it's discouraging to contemplate how difficult it will be to turn the tide, when the overwhelming majority of all instruction is like the lessons that Laurie and I observed.
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Last edited by terry : 04-13-2009 at 11:43 AM.
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  #3  
Old 04-13-2009
naj naj is offline
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I was at my pool once and saw a young boy, probably in his teens, in the shallow end of the pool. The instructor was on his cell phone talking to someone and the child was waiting for instructions. The teacher came over and made motions with his arm to demonstrate recovery and then turned and went back to his phone call. The child took off down the lane, as best he could, reaching, arching, sinking, struggling and gasping for breath the whole way. I was furious at the teacher. This kid really wanted to learn how to swim and the teacher barely gave him notice. And on the times he did, he had no idea how to explain things to the boy that he could understand. The more I think about it the more I'm happy I never learned to swim as a child and develop bad habits like so many well intentioned but uneducated teachers teach. TI came along at the right time for me and I'm thankful it did.
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Old 04-13-2009
Mike from NS Mike from NS is offline
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Terry,
Your comments are so true to what I have experienced as an adult beginner that I wish to offer this.

I was greeted at my first ever "adult beginner" lesson with a municipal rec dept by some teenagers who asked "what did I want to learn". These kids were well intentioned, as you say, and could "swim" but had been given no program to follow and didn't know what teaching was all about. That 10 week session which had 18 adults on the first night concluded with 5 who still couldn't swim. Actually 18 who couldn't ... the other 13 dwindled away over the 10 weeks.

Undaunted and determined to learn, my next set of lessons were at a university pool and they had a program laid out on paper. The instructor was a young girl but the difference was that this girl was able to teach and followed the program. She was experienced in synchronized swimming and had some knowledge of how to "work" the water. It was a much better experience than the rec's lesson set. I learned more in the first lesson than with the rec dept's. 10 weeks. Within a few weeks she had me comfortable with jumping into the deep end. I returned last spring for a second session at the university which was also productive; and with a different instructor.

But as you say these instructors are part of the student population and since they can "swim" they put this towards a part time job and a source of easy income. Generally they are not dedicated teachers.

There is always something to be gained from our experiences. Despite feeling the rec dept's lessons were useless, they did provide a starting point. Certainly what I had hoped to accomplish wasn't attained but it was the start of my journey.

After a few more years when I grasp some ability and confidence, I too think it would be interesting to be able to join the TI family of instructors. Starting as a complete non swimmer, I have a vivid understanding of the concerns of the adult beginner. Most of the kids that are instructing have learned to swim before they knew fear. I good teacher is patient and has a clear understanding of their students' concerns and desires, along with the knowledge of what they are teaching.

We have a new pool under construction in Halifax for the 2011 Canadian Winter Games and this is putting attention on swimming in the media here. I'm sure there are many adult wannabe swimmers out there that this new pool may draw out.

Mike
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Old 04-13-2009
madvet madvet is offline
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I learned to swim at the age of 5 in lakes. Actually, I basically taught myself because it was a way to explore more of the lake than the tiny strip of water that I could stand up in and to play with my friends and family out in the deeper water. And I became hooked on the joy of moving through water.

My lake swimming was really doing a few breaststrokes and stopping to tread water to get a breath. I learned later how to do a continuous stroke.

I think this sense of the joy of exploration of the water and joy of movement in the water does not really get established in many people. The feeling is that swimming is just another calisthenic activity. All they experience is someone telling them how to thrash from one end of the pool to the other. They never give them the time to just get comfortable in the water.

Actually, drownproofing is hardly ever taught in these lessons. Several people die here in Madison every year when they fall out of a boat, or swim off of a boat and can't get back. They are hardly ever more than a mile from shore and usually less than half a mile. I would guess that many of these people had swimming lessons.
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  #6  
Old 04-13-2009
naj naj is offline
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You know with swimming as in most other sports there are those that can do but not teach and those that can do both. It sounds like the majority of us have been taught by those who could swim really well but couldn't break down the problem of a person's stroke in order that they could swim better. Every see folks like Larry Bird or Magic Johnson try and coach a basketball team? True they know the game inside and out, but teaching it to someone in order to motivate and have them raise their level of play is a different story.

One thing that I feel most teachers miss right off the bat especially for adult swimmers is how to get them to feel comfortable in the water. You don't feel safe you wont learn to swim with confidence and efficiency. For me, learning as an adult in the TI program I told myself, "Naji, act like a kid and have fun. Make sure they are making you feel comfortable in the water." My TI instructors did just that. They joked with us, constantly checked to make sure we were safe and I learned miles more than I had previously.

Just because someone has the skills doesn't mean hey can teach someone else. I'd like to be able to coach Ti swimming and train kids to be great swimmers and I think I have the skill t do that, but ever person is unique and you have too meet them where they are not where you want them to be.
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Old 04-13-2009
shuumai shuumai is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by naj View Post
I was furious at the teacher. This kid really wanted to learn how to swim and the teacher barely gave him notice.

My sister has a quote that appears at the end of every e-mail...

The smallest act of kindness
is greater than the grandest intention.


So...did you consider offering to demonstrate the motions the "teacher" was trying to teach? And then perhaps mentioning that you would be around on other days as well? Then perhaps the student would come to the conclusion that you are a better teacher and choose to learn from you. Your influence could then spread to whomever that student teaches in the future.
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Old 04-13-2009
naj naj is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shuumai View Post
My sister has a quote that appears at the end of every e-mail...

The smallest act of kindness
is greater than the grandest intention.


So...did you consider offering to demonstrate the motions the "teacher" was trying to teach? And then perhaps mentioning that you would be around on other days as well? Then perhaps the student would come to the conclusion that you are a better teacher and choose to learn from you. Your influence could then spread to whomever that student teaches in the future.
Actually Shuumai I did speak with the boy later on another day, but suddenly his teacher was hovering around like a bee; looking on at the two of us. Rather than make the kid feel like he was caught up in the middle of it, I let it go. I haven't been back at the time when the kid would get a lesson since because those are the days when I swim in the Bay.
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  #9  
Old 04-13-2009
shuumai shuumai is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by naj View Post
Actually Shuumai I did speak with the boy later on another day, but suddenly his teacher was hovering around like a bee; looking on at the two of us. Rather than make the kid feel like he was caught up in the middle of it, I let it go. I haven't been back at the time when the kid would get a lesson since because those are the days when I swim in the Bay.
Ah. The tiger guarding it's territory. haha If you got the teacher to pay attention to the student, then you have done plenty.
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  #10  
Old 04-13-2009
terry terry is offline
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This is a terribly important thread. It's so important to me to begin collecting experiences from people who have experienced or observed ineffective, but too typical, instruction and been able to compare it with what works.
In the near future I want to write a book for brand new adult swimmers. Including true life anecdotes will make it much richer and more inclusive-feeling. Thanks to all and keep it alive.
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May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story
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