For the first time in my life, I became an over-protective mum and feel proud of myself for speaking up and not just accepting what was happening.
A bit of a background story… Alexei was always, from the first bath, a baby boy who was absolutely terrified of water. Initially, the bathtime was a real struggle with his screaming bloody murder any time he would feel the water. Eventually, he started to enjoy the bath, but the second a drop of water would touch his face he would get distressed and demand a towel.
I have never encountered anyone with a phobia of water, until that moment that is and later my hubby admitted that he is the same and hates water on his face. So Alexei inherited that unwelcomed trait. Until the age of four, it was the same, he would be absolutely terrified of any water, especially if it moved like it does in the sea, which proved real stuggle when we had sea side holidays.
Last summer, before Matthew was born I decided that Alexei needed some sort of activity to release the built-up energy and to have a time for himself and special something to do that he knows is just his and so I signed him up for swimming classes, every Saturday.
That is when he started his journey of recovering from his water phobia. Initially, you could see that he was not happy with water being splashed on his face. However, eventually, his competitive streak kicked in (as I knew it would). He could see that his friends started moving on to the next levels and he was stuck at his. One particular swimming season he got a very good teacher that liked him a lot and suddenly he started putting his face in the water, I was beyond excited, even though he would still demand towel during his bath.
We went away for a weekend in Limerick and I and he went to swimming pool where we would dive underwater with me holding on to him and eventually he was brave enough to do it himself knowing that I was there to catch him if something. Next classes that followed I saw that he beat his fear and started spending more and more time with his head under water.
In the last swimming season, the teacher was very good and pushed everyone to swim with one floatie and/or without one and Alexei was doing one-floatie by the end of it, but was too hesitant to let it go and so he wasn’t passed to next level because he was afraid to go without. The problem was that in the current swimming season, the teacher never allowed them to use just one floatie. He would always give them two and ask them to do the same exercises over and over again. I was quite confused as I knew that the final assessment involves one/or no floatie and wondered why there was such a difference in the teaching levels.
Finally, the assessment day came. Now, for two weeks prior to the assessment Alexei was attending a sports summer camp where they went swimming every day, and Alexei was showing great amount of improvement in my eyes. During the assessment, yet again Alexei was given two floaties, when he asked for one, he was ignored. During that session, he actully swam under water!! All the mums around me wondered why Alexei was in this level, as other kids are clearly not as progressed and he is getting bored and starts having fun, as any four-year old would.
When we came down and I got the report, it said that Alexei, is staying at the same level. I was honestly quite upset, so I asked the swimming instructor, why is that? The answer was that Alexei cannot swim with one Floatie! I asked the instructor how does he know, if he never even tried with one?? All I got was an ignorant shrug.
I have never encountered such un-proffessionalism with anyone in this swimming school or anywhere else for that matter, where kids are learning some sort of skills. At that moment, in order to keep calm all I could say was ‘I will talk to you later’, got Alexei washed and ready and once outside, asked to talk to the manager, as we had to pay for the levels that our kids are going to be at and I did not want to pay for that same level if he can actully go on to the next.
Once I was with her I explained about what had happened, she went to have a chat with the instructor, who repeated the same non-sense. On her return she said that he wasn’t progressed because he cannot do the basics. I asked what those were and she told me, and every time she would list something I would say ‘He can do it’. I also explained about the last teacher and how I was told that he will go to the next level when he can swim without a floatie.
Eventually, she conceeded to the fact that the instructor should have let them try to do everything that the assessment entails and so I was asked if I could bring Alexei for another assessment on Wednesday (luckily I was taking it off from work anyways).
Before, you think that I was too demanding, put yourself in Alexei’s position. Say you were doing an exam, and you did brilliantly and did everything that teacher asked of you, but… you did not pass. You got a fail. When you enquired as to why? You were told that you didn’t know something that you weren’t even tested on. How would you feel?
So today in the morning, before his assessment all I said to Alexei was to have fun and do everything teacher asks and that if he does his best I will bring him to playground afterwards. And he did! He was swimming without a float, he did pretty much everything teacher asked, the only thing he has to work on was floating on his back, but he gave it his best shot. By the way the teacher was different from current one, his current instructor was at the end of the pool observing and I could see that he was not happy with how well Alexei was doing. Tough!
Now, Alexei will not go back to that teacher. He is going for the next two morning to the intensive swimming lessons, two kids to one teacher and as of September, he is moving on to the next level!
So after all of that, I feel justified for speaking up. I am not one of those mums who thinks her child is the best at everything. But I am one of those mum, who demands a fair assessment of child’s progress and respect towards him. I would be the first one to tell Alexei that he needs to listen to what teacher says and if he is doing something wrong or is afraid of doing something I would encourage him to try. And I would have been ok with him staying at this level, if he could not do something that was required, but not when he is being held back for no reason.
What was the worst after this experience, was that Alexei could not understand why the teacher was saying that he could not do something when Alexei could. He asked me if the teacher was lying as he was not saying the truth. All I could reply that in a way his teacher was, but that in a big group of kids sometimes it is difficult to notice when child is capable of doing more. Unfortunatly and fortunately, after this experience Alexei now understands that teachers are not always right and just because a teacher says that he is not capable of doing something, does not mean he cannot and to give it his best shot.
I learned that lesson at the age of 15, however, my son had to learn this at the age of four…
What would you have done if you were in my position?
Hope you are having a great day!