According to the great insights from Maria Montessori, the main role of the teacher is to prepare the classroom and provide a sense of order, encourage independence, and free the child to test his/her abilities (within limits).
In Montessori’s theory, the child chooses what tools to use and how to interact with the environment. The child reaches for the teacher when support is needed.
The First Thing: Prepare the Environment
Before students even get into the pool, swim instructors explore the environment themselves. The steps, the wall, the pool lip, the surface around the pool and modify it according to the needs of the students who will be taught. For example, towels or cones are used to mark off the area where teaching will take place – and remove objects (like floaties) that will have no use in the lessons.
The Second Thing: Maintain Safety
The instructor’s first priority is keeping the student safe. This is done by offering support at all times in water. Because the instructor must be there at the very moment the child reaches for help. The instructor must earn trust through play, consistency, and openness. After all, trust is key to safety because our children must turn to instructors in time of need without any hesitation. Their trust, as much or even more so than their environment, is key to keeping the child safe.
The Third Thing: Show Skills
The skills chart comes in very handy when not only showing skills, but when referring to them, and practicing them. These skills provide the backbone for learning. It’s been shown that it’s not the particular order in which skills are showed but provides a rich and diverse range of activities to choose from. These develop into related skills and play. We encourage children’s independence when we accept and incorporate new ways of developing skills and new ways of incorporating the ways that they play on their own.
The Fourth Thing: Incorporate Tools and Toys
Kids love toys and instructors should be willing to admit that they do too. In fact, toys and tools are one in the same. Noodles, kickboards, diving toys. They are tools/toys, but they help in providing a sense of order. They serve a dual purpose: encouraging independence and freeing the child to explore.
Bringing It All Together
An activity that shows how all of the elements above to come together is called the Monkey Crawl. It can create ‘moments of discovery’.
It’s highly probable that children guide instructors along. For example, a child may decide it’s time to stop the Monkey Crawl and move on to something else. If they move back to their instructor and feel supported, they may explore a new activity on their own. Perhaps moving away from the wall, a child may discover the back float without the instructor saying a word. Support is the critical part of this at the very moment the child felt safe to explore something new: kicking and even exploring what happened when the arms were used child on the back. This is when it all comes together for this child.
It was discovery that gave the child the courage and desire to have a delightful experience and find a sense of ownership over a new skill that it was the right time for exploring.
Children can even show instructors new ways to use tools/toys. Did you know that children often use the noodle to help them overcome their first (even though it may be accidental) experience with submersion? While testing their limits, children may lose control and unintentionally go under the water. The noodle can provide assistance in climbing their way back – and all the while earning the new skill and getting a sense of accomplishment that an instructor-led experience cannot provide. Sometimes unpredictable and unexpected are valuable learning experiences in submerging as well as floating, treading water and blowing bubbles!
Providing all of this together is a crucial role of instructors. Making it possible for children to discover, to set their own goals and – all the while – to keep them safe can be a challenge. Instructors often must accept and encourage the choices and discoveries that children make for themselves and give them support, clarification, and praise in continuing to try and explore.
And if you have any questions about the benefits or the types of classes that are offered at Little Otter Swim School, don’t hesitate to contact us at any time.