Teaching Style and Philosophy

  

     Albert Einstein once said “I never teach my pupils anything. I only hope to create an environment in which they can learn.”

     

     Watching a small child explore in the water is much like watching a newborn discovering toes, or a toddler discovering the invisible wind brushing hair against his face. One of my greatest joys as a swimming teacher is seeing those moments in the water when a child’s senses first begin to register and align with the brain--even before there are words. I marvel at the intensity, focus and concentration that I observe in children when they begin to FEEL their own buoyancy; when they begin to distinguish above from below; when they see that toys can be on top of or under the water (and if on top can be moved by pushing the water, or if under can be retrieved by reaching beneath the surface). These are the magic moments--the ones ripe for discovery and learning. As a child grows, these opportunities can evolve into learning to coordinate movement in ever more complex, rhythmical patterns for propulsion and grace through the water.

 

     The more familiar with water a child becomes, the more comfortable he or she will become with trying new things. My first obligation as a teacher is to earn a child’s trust. This requires absolute presence and absolute honesty. It means listening to a child and respecting all concerns. No child should ever be forced underwater. Surprises and trickery have no place in the pool. When I have earned their trust, even if they are a bit fearful, children will try. It is such an empowering experience when children conquer these hurdles of their own accord. The proudest moments in a child’s life come when they can declare “I did it MYSELF!” And they always know when that feeling is REAL.

    

     Learning to swim should always be fun and enjoyable.

Let’s face it--children LOVE to play. They are motivated by FUN. A swimming pool can be one of the world's most amazing playgrounds. A swimming lesson should be as engaging as a play date. Playing games (often games that my students make up themselves) has led to some of the most significant leaps in a child's swimming ability. I like to observe what a child does in the water. I am then challenged to find ways to slip skill development into their games. Children don’t like to be told what to do. They would much prefer thinking that they have invented the moves that create these results all on their own--and we celebrate these inventions.

 

 

     Learning to swim is a sensory experience. Each child must learn to feel through his or her own body awareness what works, what doesn't and how to move from what doesn't work to what does. Kicking at the side of the pool may be fun, but holding a wall and kicking teaches a child more about splashing than about propulsion, and the thrill of the splash tends to wane quickly. It is not until children actually need to move their bodies through the water that they come to understand that kicking has a very valuable purpose (besides making a splash!). Their BODIES need to learn how it works and why it is useful. No amount of explanation or demonstration can teach that lesson. Children must do it, and feel it--again and again and again. We can play hundreds of different games that focus on one particular skill. This keeps the learning fun while their bodies and minds are registering, integrating, and perfecting the skill.  After the more elementary movements are mastered, children naturally want to learn how to swim faster or more efficiently, or to learn a new stroke.

 

     My role as a teacher is to guide, to encourage and engage, to entertain, and to present swimming skills in a progression that ensures confidence, success, and the desire to learn more.    

 

 Some Pearls of Wisdom

For Children:

Swimming is the closest thing to flying that people get to do without an airplane.

 

Stand up?--you sink.  Lie down?--you float.

 

It doesn't matter how deep the water is--we only swim on top! 

 

Swimmers NEVER hold their breath.

 

 

For Adults:

Google some Goggles   

To begin with, swimming requires that one must be willing to put his or her face in the water.  For adults who have NEVER been comfortable in the water, this is the first major hurdle in learning to swim. So, we don our most fashionable pairs of goggles and spend as long as it takes--first to get our heads under, and second--to remember to keep our eyes open!  I tell all of my students: "No wonder you are afraid.  If I asked you to run 100 yards down the beach with your eyes closed, it would be a frightening proposition. Now lets add water (an environment that cannot offer life-essential oxygen to humans) and PRESTO! fear."  Why would people think that they shouldn't watch where they are going in the water?! Wearing goggles underwater will instantly allow you to orient yourself; to see where you are in relation to the surface (air); and to point yourself in a purposeful direction.  Besides, seeing underwater can be a thrill unto itself! 

  

 

"I AM relaxed" - (My students)

One of the major prerequisites for learning to swim is learning to relax.  Here the mind/body paradox reigns supreme.  My beginning swimming students, my clients on the massage table or in the water during Watsu actually BELIEVE they ARE relaxed!! Thankfully, the water can show us just how far from the truth this can be.  A body that is relaxed in the water can float (even if muscle-dense, given the right conditions). When the body is rigid, it sinks faster. So here is my adult beginner, RELAXED? Absolutely NOT!!!  ... but we get there.

 

Swim as if there is no destination (the pool wall). The wall WILL come!

An interesting challenge that adults seem to face when they are beginning to swim is to learn to quell the notion that "If I just swim faster, I'll get there" ... Usually that strategy just leads to wasted effort with little progress.

 

If you get tired--SLOW DOWN! or even Just stand up!

Another interesting phenomenon in the water: People tend to attempt to speed up when they are tired, (to reach that golden wall). This is a particularly challenging mindset to overcome ... (especially if the body seems to be aborting its mission!), which is why, whenever possible, I teach adults to swim in water that is about chest deep.  Still--even in shallow water--I see when the panic sets in. As adults, our comfort level seems inextricably aligned with ability or control. And even though I tell my adult students about a million times in those initial lessons, most forget that they can always "Just stand up"! Eventually, when this mind/body paradox is conquered, most  learn to relax a little. Once the mind takes the helm, the body seems to sail along beautifully.

NOW WE ARE GETTING SOMEWHERE!