This Teaching Lark is a Bit Dangerous

I had my AUSTSWIM course this weekend, more of a formality than anything, but essential in my re qualification from an ASA Level 2 to an AUSTSWIM teacher.
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the qualification process here – there’s no right or wrong, obviously, it’s just different but there are some things that I didn’t like and some things I think are perhaps more progressive than in the UK.
Before I start, I should just point out that this post is probably only going to be interesting to my swimming lot, but feel free to read anyway!

The biggest difference, or perhaps the difference I noticed most prominently, is the focus on Water Safety.
I’m not saying we don’t teach our kids to be safe in the UK, but here kids are taught basic recuse and survival skills from the start. Skills we teach to our more advanced kids (Level 7 upwards), like basic towing, throw rescues, removing clothes in the water, are taught as early as Level 4/5. Certainly when I was doing my Level 2, I don’t remember any of my lesson plans having to include a water safety element (bar safe entries and exits) but it’s mandatory here.
I was initially impressed with AUSTSWIMs dedication to teaching Water Safety, particularly in a country where there are so many variable water conditions, and while I’m not knocking the Water Safety initiatives, a lot of it is monetary based.
A few years ago new legislation was passed that stated swim schools were exempt from certain fees if they could demonstrate they were teaching Water Safety in every lesson.
Safe entries and exits count as water safety, but we’re also talking, towing, HELP position, rescues – the lot.

I was a little freaked out when we were doing the Water Safety elements of the course.
You don’t really ever hear about drownings in the UK and I’ve been really lucky in my time as a Lifeguard and Teacher that I’ve never had to save any one. Sure, there’s been plenty of times I’ve had to pick kids up off the bottom, but that was for no longer than a few seconds because they slipped or swallowed some water, or simply forgot how to come back up again. Never anything serious.
It seems serious, now. I pray I’m lucky enough to never be in that situation, but I think it’s more likely to happen now than at home.

Secondly: you don’t ever teach any kids as part of the course.
I know for a lot of people alarm bells will start ringing here.
I, myself, was a little bit concerned when I realised we wouldn’t be physically teaching any kids and I was doing a FULL course over one weekend, not just a refresher.
The main reason is they get you to get the experience practically, you have to complete 40 hours shadow work and then you get signed off by an AUSTSWIM assessor within the centre you’re working when they think you’re ready to start teaching on your own.
I’m in two minds how I feel about this approach.
We practised 5 minute peer to peer lessons and it’s nothing like actually teaching.
For a start we already know how to do the skills we’re trying to teach and you get no feel for how long half an hour can be, you’ve also got no time to practice teaching methods and techniques in a really productive environment, surrounded by people in exactly the same boat who are perhaps a little more supportive and forthcoming with practices than actual teachers are.
(It’s nothing personal, but when you’ve nailed a really great practice, there’s a selfish part of you that wants to keep it to yourself so you have an edge over other teachers).

Another thing I noticed was that they still favour the ‘old’, very prescribed way of teaching where you have 1min for an entry, 3mins for a starting activity, 20mins for the main activity etc.
Something I loved about doing my Level 2 was the introduction of the games based approach. It seems pretty daunting when you first start off and it may feel like the kids aren’t really learning anything, but the fact is they’re having fun, and they’re more likely to learn when they’re having fun.
And it’s more fun to teach as well. When everything is a game you get to really play around with the water, it improves morale, which boosts confidence and then hardest thing when teaching is the child’s confidence – that’s something you can’t teach.

I do however, like that you have to have a separate, current CPR qualification, which is renewed annually and in order to stay as a registered, insured AUSTSWIM teacher you have to go on a refresher course every three years. This either means going on some discipline specific courses or retaking the entire AUSTSWIM course.
There’s not the constant renewal at home and a lot of teachers run the risk of becoming very stale with their methods and practices by not keeping their training current.
You also have to have a minimum level of fitness to be able to become an AUSTSWIM teacher – nothing too taxing, entry and exit, treading water, picking something up off the bottom and 50m front, 50m back, all in a continuous sequence.
They get you to practice a lot of the skills you’ll be teaching the kids and you’ve got lots of different drills to help you remember what it’s like getting in the water for the first time.
All the getting in and out though, I’ve got a few cracking bruises, including this one on my arm.

Getting in and out isn't as easy as it looks!

Getting in and out isn’t as easy as it looks!

There’s a few more hoops I need to jump through before I get my card through, sending off forms and photo ID, but other than that I’m pretty much officially re-qualified.


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