Why Traditional Swimming Lessons Need to Change

There is a massive conversation coming for the aquatic industry. An important one that needs to be had. 

Traditional swimming lessons need to change. Not only for the students but also for the dedicated teachers who report experiencing an increasing number of students with challenging behaviours. 

Knowing confidently how to accommodate students who demonstrate unexpected, unusual or what may be perceived as ‘naughty behaviour’ is crucial. In some cases, lessons can no longer be templated. Upskilled teachers, who embrace students’ differences have the potential to add exponentially more value for the child, family and community. 

Traditional swimming lessons usually engage three to five children for a 30 minute class. Participants are similar in age and ability. Generally, the teacher is provided with a program or “script” as to how to progress through the lesson. Typically, a lesson is divided into either a timed set of skills or number of laps per skill. The teacher proceeds according to the plan. 

Often, aquatic centre managers determine the objective criteria that decides when a child can progress to the next set of skills. It’s common that a child can only progress once they have mastered a specified set of prerequisite tasks.

Understandably, aquatic centre and swim school managers need to ensure profitability. Business model efficiencies are required. Scripted programs are therefore written not only with the child’s best interest in mind but also with an eye on managing a program, a team of teachers and a business. 

The intended customer experience is continuity, familiarity and student progress even if the regular teacher is away. Teacher anxiety levels are reduced because the lesson is planned…they simply need to invest who they are into their work and follow the curriculum. Students become familiar with the lesson pattern as the steps are followed. 

The process generally gets the desired result…….. 

Until a student presents with some challenging behaviours.

And so, we are presented with an opportunity to restructure and modify.

In Australia, the way we teach swimming is world-renowned. My assertion is that we need to enhance what is already done to world standards by upskilling teachers and encouraging informed teacher responsiveness to challenging behaviours. Not only do we then improve inclusivity but it also makes good business sense.

Challenging behaviours demand that lesson plans need space for observation, consideration and flexibility of responses. The analogy may be that when a rocket shoots for the moon, the objective is clear however the nose of the spacecraft is pointed at its destination for only 3% of the journey. The remainder is spent ‘correcting & iterating’ depending on the feedback from the universe. 

Of course, the goal is to teach a child to be water safe and to swim. We need to follow the direction of the lesson, rather than the lesson plan. We need to tune into children’s feedback which is delivered by their language and behaviours. Our teachers need to be skilled up in strategies, techniques and the use of equipment that puts skills into their swim bag. This in turn allows creativity, flexibility, patience, the ability to change the dynamic and focus of the class, so that everyone succeeds.

Register your interest in the Aquatic Mentors online course at www.aquatic-mentors.com.au and start your upskilling. The different strategies, techniques and skills you will gain from the course will leave you feeling empowered.

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