Swim Please!

March 23, 2010

A Class, Analysis

Filed under: kids swim lessons, swimming — Tags: — maybe an idealist @ 8:40 pm

The factors that go into a good class include a desire to learn, a reasonable class size, the possibility of class bonding, and similar skill of the students.

The desire to learn varies by class and swimmer.  Some people are desperate to achieve swimming.  Some are fascinated by new knowledge.  Some see swimming as a way to get to another goal.  Some care about survival.  Some are having fun.  Desire, pride, and commitment get people to show up to each class.  I try to fit my explanations to my students’ goals.  For instance, on the subject of regulated breathing, the different explanations to answer the “why” often include “it keeps the water out,” “It turns swimming into aerobic exercise instead of anaerobic exercise, so you can swim further,” “It makes you float better,” “It forces you to relax,” “It’s faster,” and, my favorite for excited swimmers, “Why do you think it’s important? Test it.”

A reasonable class size isn’t set and dried.  The advantage of a class is that students aren’t learning only from me; they’re learning from each other. I like classes of at least 4.  4 always insures I have 3 to teach.  4 ensures a range of strengths and challenges.  4 ensures it’s a class.  5 is usually great.  It’s my preferred cap for classes.  It is small enough that I can yell to everyone, but big enough that swimmers pair up, clump up, and get time to rest or practice without me.  6 is a preferred limit.  At 6, I have two teams, a busy class, and lots of energy.  After six, I can’t give students quite the amount of attention I prefer.  I struggle to remember who has had a turn, who needs a turn, and who wanted what.  It gets chaotic.

Class bonding depends on who is in the class.  It turns class into a supportive environment, where swimmers help each, provide encouragement, and leave class talking to each other.  With kids, it means they play together and copy.  With adults, it means copying, questioning, and supporting.

The demographics of my classes vary.  In the past year, my students, now successfully swimming, have ranged from 3 years to mid sixties.  It helps to speak a common language with a student, but isn’t essential.  Lately, my typical class has been 4 to 6 five year old boys of a variety of nationalities, ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, and learning abilities.  The common factor are that they are all easily excited, really want to learn, have lots of energy, and constantly are making new discoveries.

Similar skill of students makes it possible to teach everyone with the same words.  It means we can all work on breathing regulation, by either starting to blow bubbles on the surface of the water, or practicing bobs underwater.  It supports the desire to learn, the class bond, and the class size.  Similar skill keeps the class cohesive.

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