Swim Lesson are the Model

So, I've got an almost 7 year old and a just turned 3 year old in swim lessons right now.  As I watched them on Saturday, I had a revelation.

Swim lessons are the model for successful education.  Here's why:

  • The student to teacher ratio is extremely low.  No class was more than 5 to 1.  I'm assuming the goal is to not allow any students to drown.  How's that for a metaphor for the traditional classroom?
  • The lessons are short.  In the 30 minute lesson, they work on at least 5 different skills.  No skill practice takes more than a few minutes.  It's constantly being mixed up.
  • There are many activities to accomplish the same goal.  Want kids to be able to jump in the pool?  One time you sing the teddy bear song, another you do Chicken, Airplane, Solider.  Another you say the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme.  Different routes to the same goal.
  • No child is allowed to sit out.  There is a deck supervisor whose sole job during lessons is to listen for crying, rush over, reassure the child, and work up the confidence to get back in the pool.  No child is allowed to sit out or cry.  
  • The children are active the whole time.  While the instructor is working with one student, the others are practicing kicking on the edge of the pool.  To me this kinda sounds like worksheets but it's the whole practice and reinforce thing.
  • There is no social promotion.  Either you master the skills or you repeat the same class.  My almost 7 year old is in level 1 for the third time.  He can't seem to get the hang of putting his head back and doing a back float.  At the end of the 10 weeks, we get a slip of paper that lists all the skills he should have.  If more than 2 are not checked, they recommend staying in that class.  I suppose I could just move him on but I trust that the instructor knows what he is doing and has my child's best interest in mind.  Do I like spending $50 on a repeat class?  Not at all. But it's not going to do him any good to move on without basic skills.
  • The instructors are accessible.  I can literally lean over the pool and talk to the instructor before or after the class.  They can't run or hide.  
  • Parents can watch everything that happens.  I know if my child is trying.  I can give an encouraging wink.  I can give the evil parent eye saying try harder.  I don't always know what the instructor is trying to accomplish but I know if people are being fair and working hard.
Am I missing anything else?  I know that parent-teachers read this blog.  What other aspects of swim lessons are valuable for education?


  1. Parents who know how to swim can do something with their child that both of them will enjoy: play in the water together.

    How often is homework sent home from school enjoyable for both parent and child?

  2. Thanks David! That's a great point. I'm starting a questioning unit soon. I would be great to include parents. Anyone can write questions (especially when I don't care about the answers).


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