Roving reporter Emily S shares the challenges and rewards of teaching swimming as part of Austswim.
Every Tuesday morning my friend and I have a routine. She stomps onto the bus, tired and grumpy and I adjust the collar on my dress, clasp my hands, settle back on the seat and wait. Then she begins her tirade about work.
Huffing her fringe out of her face, she describes the unfairness of her manager, the utter monotony of four hours of labour and proclaims, "Oh! And if I have to put up with any more people who don't have the common human decency to acknowledge me after I ask how they are, I'll purposefully put their chips underneath their tub of ice cream and not care at all if they get crushed! And my feet hurt!"
Every Wednesday morning the routine continues. This time, however, she sits in relative contentment whilst listening to my work anecdotes.
I tell her of gorgeous children, real improvements, chats with parents and the inescapable occurrences of silliness, and thus, fun, that is all a part of my Tuesday night shift. "And my feet have never felt better," I add.
What's the job actually like?
I am an Austswim teacher and I love it. Coming from a swimming background and with the idea of having a steady job to rely upon once I moved out of home, gaining my qualifications seemed only natural.
Initially, I hadn't a thought of what the job might actually be like, content with hazy, half-ideas of staging an infinite number of "noodle-races" or epic tournaments of Marco Polo.
The three-day Austswim course, however, staged throughout the year at several pool and aquatic centres, not only taught me how to be an effective teacher, but what exactly my responsibilities and expected actions were.
As a qualified Austswim teacher, you have a responsibility not only to ensure nothing harmful befalls the children under your care, but also that you teach them correct technique, vital survival tactics and create an environment under which each child can improve, every single lesson.
Though this seems daunting and may even have you longing for a job that only requires you to wear a shirt, smile and say "G'day" to random prospective customers, this pressure actually encourages you to become more invested in your work, therefore gaining infinitely more job satisfaction when you orchestrate something successful.
Considering the fact that most of the kids that are involved in Learn to Swim programs are still fairly little, this successful event may also be minor. However, the realisation that you are significantly responsible for it transforms it into something fantastic.
For instance, I have been known to be deliriously happy for several days if one of my students has recently mastered the relatively simple skill of floating or of keeping their arms straight while doing backstroke.
Jacob, 17, a fellow Austswim teacher agrees, citing the times "...when you're teaching the kids something new and they finally get it" as "pretty rewarding".
A skill for life
On the television ads, the considerably distracting Geoff Huegil equates teaching children how to swim with "teaching a skill for life". This is undoubtedly true, especially given Australia's water-friendly culture, and consequently places a great, lasting importance on your efforts, somewhat unusual for a part-time job.
It is entirely reasonable to presume that if they are ever in trouble in the water at any time in their future life, the child will draw on the skills that you have taught them to remain alive.
This is what scares me most. Though I understand that the Austswim course, test and completed supervised hours will ensure that all information I impart on my students is helpful and accurate, the importance of the role of a swimming teacher never escapes my notice.
This also proves to inspire me. The knowledge that my impact upon and guidance of a person will not cease the moment they wrestle their trolley out of the automatic sliding doors provides me with both a sense of worth and of pride.
Challenges and rewards
The role of an Austswim teacher is definitely difficult and challenging. However, these aspects are unimaginably outweighed by the rewards. The time I spend preparing for each lesson is overshadowed by the smile on the kids' faces when I tell them that tonight we're focusing on their favourite stroke.
The knowledge that the parents of your students are carefully evaluating everything you do is nothing compared to their impressed expressions when their child learns and perfects a new skill. The occasional tantrums and tear-filled episodes that occur are easily forgotten when you receive the boxes of Roses and roughly handwritten Christmas cards from the very same children at the end of the year.
It's different, but it's amazing. Besides, spending a considerable amount of your shift staging bomb competitions, high-fiving and smiling at young people who always reply when you ask them how they are is pretty hard to beat.
For more about Austswim and how to become an Austswim teacher, check out the Austswim website (new window). And check out our Articles archive for more articles about Sport & recreation and Work & study.
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