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The deep end

A matter of confidence

Children confident in a swimming pool. Small classes can be best for some kids.Teaching swimming is an art, and teachers need to learn from their colleagues and even their pupils. And one thing a pupil taught me recently is that sometimes small is best.

I was teaching a six-year-old boy who had become quite anxious of the water. For the past two years he had been having group swimming lessons at the local pool.

Classes were large and, at the time, a little intimidating for him. He had learned that water was just not fun.

Friend or foe

Children who have learned to become fearful, through no fault of their own, quickly lose water confidence and eventually start to make excuses about attending swim classes. Before you know it, the child sees the water as the enemy and not something to enjoy.

For them to flourish, and develop confidently, they will need very small group sessions or individual swimming lessons, just as my six-year-old pupil did.

Calling their bluff

Some children don’t like to ask questions, particularly when they are not feeling confident. If the child has not understood what the teacher is asking, they’ll follow the other children, thinking they are practicing the exercise that’s been asked of them.

The reality, though, is that the child is bluffing its way through the lesson, which often leads to learning bad habits, a feeling of insecurity and an inward cry of ‘I can’t do it, it’s too hard’. Before you know it, a problem has been created.

A child who has not learned and understood the fundamentals of their breathing pattern above and under the water, or does not know how to float and calmly regain standing, will never be able to enjoy the water confidently.

Only when water-confidence skills have been taught and the child is comfortable can swimming strokes be introduced.

Changing behaviour

With nurturing, patience and understanding from the teacher, a child can learn not only to enjoy the water but to be happy and safe.

It’s all so easy for children like my six-year-old pupil to slip through the net and become one of the thousands of adults who became fearful of the water because of a problem that was not addressed in childhood.

Before the child becomes an adult, let’s change our perspective and make it our job to encourage children and support the individuals. We are in this job because we want to make a difference to those pupils’ lives.

If we are to inspire others, we must apply our knowledge and expertise, and remain open so we are able to learn from other teachers and our pupils. Teaching is an art and poetry in motion.

So ensure your children aren’t bluffing. Look out for those who need confidence building and recommend smaller lessons. If we don’t we are only building up problems for the child’s future.