I teach swimming lessons and I am a good teacher. I have had professional training and much experience teaching lessons, but most of my lessons have been in the states where swimming is quite different than here. In the states, teaching swimming is simple. Follow the book, do the skills step by step. No fear, no push. The kids develop slowly level by level improving a little day by day.
It’s difficult to teach swimming lessons in Spanish when you can scarcely communicate to scared children who have never before learn to swim. I believe the secret to a good swim teacher is confidence and knowledge of skill- progression and technique. But it’s so difficult to not be able to converse with the kids freely and discover their feelings, fears, and explain to them the strokes and the procedures as well as why not to be afraid.
Thus while I have learned a few key phrases in Spanish about swimming: patella (kick), flotar (float), sopla burbujas (blow bubbes) ect. Most of my Spanish lessons come from the simple technique of “mira me y repita” or “watch me and repeat”. Normally, it works with much demonstration and as the kids swim I will correct their technique and efforts while working with them.
I teach the kids step by step but I ask them to trust me as a teacher- that’s the only way I can teach them. If they ever start drowning, I will always rescue them. I will never let them drown under the water. Sometimes I will push them to do things that are difficult, but my desire is always for their success and for their swimming achievement.
In the morning, the group of boys I work with are doing wonderful with my teaching. On the first day they couldn’t swim at all, and now they can cross the pool on their own swimming with good proper breathing and kicking. The girls in my second class are a different story. Because some of them have came to to class each day in perfect order, those girls can swim well and are learning quickly for a level 1 class. But because many have missed classes, it is difficult to teach different levels at once. There is one girl in particular named Melissa, around 10 years old, who has missed a few classes and is a little behind the other girls. It’s not that she can’t do the skills, it’s simply that she is afraid and starts to freak out in the water.
Yesterday Melissa almost drowned twice and one of them was definitely my fault. The problem with Melissa is the minute you let go of her, instead of practicing putting her head down and using her arms, she freaks out in the water in a vertical position thus drowning herself. The second she can’t feel you around her, she panics. She has no faith in herself or trust in me that I will get her when she can’t swim.
Thus yesterday I wanted her to swim to the wall which was only two feet away. She was grabbing onto me and refusing to swim on her own so I pushed her to the wall and went under water in an effort to force her to use her arms and swim. Instead of reaching for the wall which was very very close, she grabbed to me, grabbed to my hair and began to drown right above me slightly under the water.
I was very frustrated and she was very scared. I made her repeat the exercise twice trying to explain to her that if she had listened to me and used her arm motions she could have simply reached for the wall. She repeated it twice successfully shaking from terror. I feel quite bad for the girl and next class I am going to move her down to a different level. She simply can’t keep up with the other girls- not because of her skill level- simply because of her fears and lack of blind trust. I feel bad that she almost drowned because of me. But by herself she will continue to drown, until she learns to trust in herself and in me and swim or use her arms.
My third class of swimming girls are by far the littlest and cutest. They are only about six to nine years old and they were all terrified in the water on the first day. I have had the joy of watching them learn to trust me and overcome a lot of their fears in the water. Now they can jump in the water and come up on their own in the deep end. They can do superman float and twist to back float without panicking. They can bob with assistance in the deep end. The girls trust me a lot- and trust is definitely the key to their success.
My swimming children remind me a lot about the importance of not worrying and trusting in God. When we have a problem in life we tend to freak out immediately. Similar to trying to swim vertically in the water, panicking and freaking out will only make our problems worse and eventually if we worry about everything we will drown.
When we are encountered with a difficult situation or asked to swim against the current or in a new direction that is unfamiliar, we need to trust in our God. We need to obey and continue to follow Him (to keep moving towards where He wants us). To learn how to swim or to learn how to walk closer to Christ is often uncomfortable and scary. God is patient in His work with us but sometimes He calls us to take a big leap of faith. We need to trust Him and be confident that He will provide even when He asks us to do things we can’t do.
God is way better than I am as a teacher. God has had years of experience directing lives. God understands our fears and our feelings perfectly. He is always capable of coming to our rescue and He always will when we are drowning in life’s troubles.
Sometimes it may seem like we are drowning. Sometimes similar to Melissa, we will not feel God and we will get scared. We may ask “Where is God while this is happening?” We may not feel like He is real or like He is really going to save us. These times are hard but it is important that we don’t lose hope of God even when times get difficult.