Teachers bring it up in meetings, coordinators brainstorm ideas on changing the culture at the pool, and, yes, kids get upset.
This week one of our teachers came out of his shift and told us that he almost cried during a lesson, because a little boy in his class swam the length of the pool, looked up at his Dad for praise, and said:
‘Why won’t Daddy watch me? He’s always playing on his phone.’
His Dad was so engrossed in his phone that he didn’t hear his son call out to him. This particular boy had put in so much effort. He had listened well to the teacher, he had tried his hardest, and he just wanted his Dad to be proud of him.
Sadly, we see it all day every day.
I teach classes and see parents/grandparents/caregivers/whoever completely missing out on the effort that their children are putting in to this lesson, the comedy they bring to the classes with their imaginative ideas, the competitive streak that suddenly appears when a child realises they can do something and do it well.
You could walk into any learn-to-swim environment, and I bet you will see a row of parents sitting on their phones.
As an instructor I can tell you that overall, lessons are great fun, and we get so much out of them. We get to see children change, develop, grow. We get to hear about their days, we get to help them through what can sometimes be a frightening experience, and we see progression.
That progression can be huge; it can be a child finally trusting themselves (and us) enough to let go. It can be a child mastering bilateral breathing. It can be a child perfecting a streamline kick. It can be a child putting their eyes in the water, it can even be minuscule (in appearance), e.g. tucking a chin in further towards their chest; but that could have taken weeks, if not months to happen.
How are you going to see those accomplishments if you are on your phone or ipad, or reading a paper?
How are you going to know that your child IS benefiting from the lessons if you are not watching? Do you see how much they have to take in and do all at once?
Honestly, I get sad as a teacher. I am a little disappointed when ‘Michael’, after months of encouragement and gentle guidance, finally trusts me enough to push off from the edge and paddle out to me, only to see that his caregiver hasn’t noticed. They are not even looking our way.
That’s me, feeling sad, as an adult.
Imagine how ‘Michael’ feels.
I do get it, I know that sometimes it is unavoidable. I know that work can reach us any and everywhere, and while your child is in a safe environment, being watched by another adult, it is convenient to get those final emails done. It’s finally ok to book that appointment online, without your small person trying to talk to you or show you something.
It’s just that, they usually are trying to show you something.
I work for an ever-expanding company, and at the co-ordinators meeting this week, an item on the agenda was: HOW do we get parents to put their phones down?
We discussed banning them (not very realistic)
We discussed posters (will you see them?)
We discussed talking to parents and gently encouraging them to watch
We discussed creating an app where you can watch your children swim (in real-time)
We even discussed offering free wifi and changing the password to “please get off your phone and watch me swim”.
Then the following day, our amazing teacher told us about the boy in his class, whose Dad didn’t realise his son was calling out for him.
‘why won’t Daddy watch me? He’s always playing on his phone.’
Please just try it. You will be amazed how much you get out of it, and I’ll bet you your child will work their absolute hardest.
Big thanks to K N for the pic.