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Published on 10th September 2019

The Life of a Swim Teacher: My Experience Throughout my First Year of Teaching

In September 2018, I had the amazing opportunity to become a swimming teacher. Before that, I worked at a shop called My Spice Thai Takeaway, and while I loved my job, I loved the chance to try a new and different type of work. When I was offered the job at JUMP! Swim School, I was shocked and proud of myself. I had never considered myself to be good with children or good at swimming. Yet somehow, I had snagged a job where I work with children and teach them to swim! This was a completely new and different job for me, and I was both excited and nervous to start. I was hired as a floater teacher, which meant that I was an extra teacher in the pool, and I would help out the other two teachers where necessary. 

To be able to teach and assist others, I had to complete two courses through AUSTSWIM. The first course was called the Teacher of Swimming and Water Safety, and the second was called the Teacher of Infant and Preschool Aquatics. The first course taught me how to teach stroke development to different ages, and the second course taught me the correct way to teach infants and toddlers. What these licenses meant was that I was qualified and educated to teach swimming. At JUMP! there are multiple different levels kids go through in their swimming:

  1. Duckling: ages 3-9 months. Learning to accept water, be able to have water on their faces, float on their back with support, and hold their breath for 5 seconds.
  2. Ducks: ages 10 months – 2 years. Learning to accept water, kick their legs, have water on their faces, confident being submerged, and holding their breath.
  3. Goldfish: ages 1-2 years. Learning to blow bubbles, strong kicking legs and paddle arms, floating on their back, and hold their breath comfortably.
  4. Tadpole: ages 2-3 years. Learning to blowing bubbles, strong kicking legs and paddle arms, holding breath for a minimum of 5 seconds, and independently swim.
  5. Turtle/Crab: ages 3 years +. Paddling and kicking between platforms, as well as kicking and floating on their backs.
  6. Octopus: Continued learning of the above backstroke skills, as well as big freestyle arms between platforms.
  7. Frog: Side breathing with freestyle arms, as well as backstroke arms between platforms.
  8. Stingray: Continued learning of freestyle and backstroke, as well as swimming the whole 15 metre pool and breaststroke kick.
  9. Marlin: Continued learning of freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke kick, as well as breaststroke arms and butterfly.

The first four levels involve the child always swimming with their parent, and then we, as teachers, get the fun job of trying to get them to swim in a Turtle or Crab class without their parents. The main aim of the Turtle and Crab class is to get the kids swimming a short distance without sinking to the bottom of the pool. After this level, we start teaching them proper swimming techniques to develop their strokes. I teach every level except Marlin. The main reason I do not teach Marlin is there is another teach who is excellent at teaching it as she has done squad swimming herself. The other reason I do not want to teach Marlin is that I cannot swim butterfly myself, so I do not really think I can teach kids to swim it.

After I was signed off, my boss asked me if I would like to make the Friday night shift permanently mine. This gave me great confidence as, clearly, I was now good enough to be teaching by myself, and while I struggled at first to control the class and remember the lesson plans, I quickly got better. After being there for about three months I was asked whether I would like the Wednesday and Thursday classes I helped with as well. This meant my confidence and skill with teaching swimming grew further.

What I really love about my job is the relationships I build with the children, and their parents as well. Since starting there, I have had parents say to me that they want to keep their children with me because they feel I can be strict when necessary, and fun when necessary. I have had some ups and downs in terms of my firmness of teaching, in that at first when I took over teaching permanently, I was too ‘fun’, and didn’t control and discipline my kids enough. Now, however, I know when to have fun with the kids, but also discipline them when necessary.

One of my favourite success stories with teaching is with one little boy who I’ll call ‘Sam’. He used to swim on Friday nights at a Crab level with another teacher before I took over. She told me that ‘Sam’ hardly ever came to swimming, which she was glad about because he just mucked around and never listened or swam properly. When I took over the Friday nights, ‘Sam’ and his parents quickly started coming more regularly, until they were coming every week for his lesson. I was confused, as the old teacher had told me they never came, and yet here he was every single week. I got talking to his parents throughout his lessons, and they told me that they did not like bringing him before, because his previous teachers never took the time listening to him which resulted in him acting up and the teacher getting annoyed with him. They said they loved how I would let him swim, then let him talk and have a bit of fun mucking around, before making sure that he did some swimming again. They told me he now looked forward to swimming and was excited to come because I had fun with him. They told the desk staff that they wanted to keep him with me permanently, because I was the only teacher who was patient with ‘Sam’, and they loved the way I treated him. ‘Sam’ had been stuck in the Crab level for about a year with no progress, but within five months of me teaching him, we were able to move him up to an Octopus level, and ‘Sam’ and his parents now come every single week

What I love about this story is seeing the impact I can have on a kid’s life. This story, especially, help me to remember how important it is to build relationships through my job, as it really does make a difference. I’ve been a swim teacher now for a year, and I absolutely love my job and look forward to my shifts. I love watching the kids develop their skills and move through the levels, as it shows me how much you can influence a child’s learning.

NOTE: This is an article I wrote for The Footy Almanac

NOTE 2: 'Sam' is a fake name, as I wanted to protect the privacy of my student