Can you remember the name of a favourite teacher who taught you spelling or math?
Ms. Arthur, Grade 2, i before e except after c!
Now how about a favourite teacher who taught you how to float or put on a lifejacket?
Didn't think so.
Almost everyone can remember their favourite teacher — someone who inspired a lasting impression not only because of what they taught but because of how they taught. In aquatics, swimming instructors have an opportunity to make an impact in their students' lives. However, after years in traditional swimming lessons, most students seem unable to recall much of anything about what they were taught. This, of course, has everything to do with how they were taught.
Participation vs Retention
In Canada, swimming has the highest participation rate of any sport by children and youth. Yet, less than half of these participants can truly swim to save their lives. Why is this?
By comparing how students learn in the classroom with how they do so in pools, it becomes obvious why learning outcomes in swimming are so poor. The following three principles are often viewed as crucially essential to classroom instruction but are surprisingly absent in most public and private learn-to-swim offerings.
1. Developing a Connection with Each Student
It is much easier to motivate students once they know that you care. Establishing rapport should be a top priority for any instructor. Unfortunately, the rushed nature of traditional swimming lessons, even semi-privates, causes them to be highly impersonal and devoid of meaningful connection.
The best school teachers are as good at listening as they are at lecturing. Having the time to listen and respond to a five year old's excited story about their first visit to the zoo may seem trivial but in understanding what delights your students, you often learn what drives them too.
2. Balancing Challenge with Feedback
Once an instructor connects with a student, they can begin to truly challenge them. Introducing complexity and difficulty without provoking frustration is a skill that absolutely requires a personalized approach. Unfortunately, due to short lesson times and high volumes of students, tailoring lesson content for any one pupil is an exceedingly rare practice in mainstream aquatics.
“In understanding what delights your students, you often learn what drives them too.”
In great school settings, feedback occurs between teachers, students, and parents as often as it is needed. On the other hand, feedback in aquatics is commonly just a hurried afterthought that reduces 8 to 12 weeks of progress down to a series of checked boxes, canned phrases, and fleeting conversations with parents.
When time is less of a constraining factor, opportunities to provide feedback can be used for more than just constructive criticism. The very best instructors on our platform regularly take the time to call parents over, not only to explain where students are struggling, but to celebrate their breakthroughs and victories. This way, students learn to embrace and overcome adversity, rather than fear it.
3. Creating Familiarity with Routine
Imagine you were trying to learn spelling or math but had a new teacher every few days. You probably wouldn't learn much. Most swimming lesson sets are just 4 to 8 hours long before one lesson set ends and a new one begins, usually with a different instructor.
In school, sports, music, or language most people would throw a fit at having to switch instructors so often and yet this is the standard for swimming lessons. To make matters worse, with limited lesson availability and rigid scheduling, most facilities make it extremely difficult to consistently register for swimming lessons.
On our platform we took a new approach to scheduling, where each instructor sets their own availability and each client books swimming lessons whenever they want.
From couples who book back to back lessons because they want to learn in time for a destination wedding, to shift workers who book different days of the week because their schedules are so irregular, we love empowering people to build unique routines and achieve their goals their own way.
Changing How People Connect — with the Water
Any swimming instructor can push their students through a lesson but very few can inspire students to push themselves, though it's not for lack of trying. As we've seen, most of the problems in water safety education are systemic but solvable.
Meaningful connection is possible when we give instructors adequate time to give individual attention. Adversity becomes a tool instead of a burden when feedback is provided with more than just report cards. And finally, familiarity and routine become possible when consumers are presented with choices instead of waitlists.
Learn How to Swim Today!
Propel is a marketplace platform that creates access to affordable private swimming lessons by connecting new swimmers, experienced instructors, and under-utilized swimming pools — all in one seamless booking process.