It is a privilege to introduce you to Christopher, who is in my opinion, the best swimming instructor I’ve met!
My children recently completed another round of swimming lessons at Foss Swim School. Having grown up in a household with two master public school teachers, owning a private practice as a speech-language pathologist, and defaulting to perfectionistic personality traits, I’ve discovered that I have high expectations of my childrens’ teachers. Most of the time, a dose of reality and a little grace helps me remember these are just people doing their best, but once in a while a teacher comes along that rocks my world and exceeds every expectation I have.
So it took about two minutes of observing Christopher with my son the first day of swimming lessons to realize he was going to be the best swimming instructor my children have had (seven years of lessons for two children, instructors too many to count)! I started watching closely and realized that whether he knows it or not, Christopher has swim instruction down to a science. The beauty is that his methods are not robotic in any way. Christopher’s instruction is so natural, so clearly reflects who he is, that he couldn’t possibly instruct differently if he tried!
I decided to write down everything Christopher did so I could see exactly what it was I valued so much about his instruction.
I captured the essence of Christopher’s excellence over the course of eight swimming lessons, which resulted in the following 25 observations…
- Quickly learns the name of each child in the group.
- Uses an authoritative vocal quality to obtain and maintain control of children during class.
- Observable energy and enthusiasm for swimming.
- Spends time teaching each stroke prior to letting the children try it.
- Demonstrates each stroke prior to having the children try, reminds the children to “watch me” before demonstrating.
- Sometimes asks children to attempt the stroke outside of the pool prior to entrance into the water.
- Incorporates proper etiquette, “remember guys, girls go first!”
- Allows children to try first and corrects only when necessary.
- Determines very quickly which parent goes with each child, and is not afraid to engage parents during class with on-the-spot feedback specific to their child.
- Effortlessly blends gestures with verbal instruction. For example, demonstrates a stroke while verbalizing “breathe tuck fly, breathe tuck fly, breathe tuck fly.” Gestures for one child to start swimming while he verbalizes to another child already swimming “kick, kick, kick, breathe tuck fly.”
- Effortlessly blends physical prompts with verbal instruction. For example, while verbalizing “straight leg,” “stomach up” he provides physical assistance to help the children achieve proper form.
- Keeps a quick pace and flow during class, naming students to indicate it’s their turn. “Ashlyn GO, Corey GO, Savannah GO” and points the direction they are to go.
- Provide targets for the children. For example, he holds his hand up to indicate where children should kick, how far they should reach their arms up.
- Not afraid to physically assist children into proper position for each stroke. If necessary, he gets them into proper position and moves them through a few strokes in slow motion; this is a practice I have very rarely seen swim instructors use.
- Provides children with verbal praise, high fives, encouragement, and detailed feedback. For example, “That was a really hard arm movement and a really tough kick, great try!”
- Keeps a close eye on all children in the class, even when engaging one-on-one with a child. Notices when children are off task and redirects immediately.
- Uses repetition to enhance learning. For example, “1 2 3 and down, 1 2 3 breath and down.”
- Integrates age appropriate metaphors to teach strokes. For example, refers to pizza and pushing cell phone buttons when cueing proper hand position.
- Introduces physical props (e.g., noodle) only when necessary, if children are unable to master a skill on their own.
- Indicates to the children how much time remains of the lesson, or how many laps to completion. For example, “four minutes left” or “last time.”
- Assigns and demonstrates homework.
- Greets and touches base with parents after each lesson.
- Acknowledges siblings.
- Makes a final contact with each student before leaving, smiles and jokes as appropriate.
- Demonstrates a fondness for each child and makes each one feel special.
After my son’s first lesson with Christopher, I went into the hallway and noticed a wall of swim instructors’ photographs and bios. Christopher was in the center, highlighted as one of the Fab Five. “This group goes above and beyond the call of duty.” Doesn’t that describe Christopher perfectly?
Christopher, you are more than worthy of being in the Fab Five. From this parent’s perspective, you are top notch, the best of the best. Commitment to excellence shines through you. You clearly have a gift for swim instruction, and I am so grateful we had the opportunity to be a recipient of this gift. Not only did you meet my expectations, you exceeded them. Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for more. Thank you.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
NOTE: As was the case with Meet Mick, I found out after the fact that Christopher’s biography proves he is even more interesting and greater than I could have known just watching from the sidelines. Christopher’s bio in his own words…
I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. Started competitive swimming at the age of 5. After I got my first blue ribbon I was hooked. Swimming became second nature to me. Through high school I was practicing 4 hours a day. After high school I pursued a military career in the Marine Corps. I became a Marine Combat Instructor of Water Survival, where I taught hundreds of Marines how to swim by using the basic dog paddle all the way to competition strokes. I was honorably discharged after almost 9 years of service.
Some of my fondest training memories are from my time in the Marines. One of my favorite stories is helping a young Marine who never learned how to swim before joining the service. He went from having to learn how to put his face in the water, to mastering jumping out of a helicopter into the Pacific ocean from 30 feet, then swimming 300 meters into shore.
I now live in Minnesota with my wife of 14 years and our 4 wonderful kids. I enjoy teaching from the 30 years of experience I have accumulated. I hope to assist all my swimmers to find the skill, confidence and passion for swimming that I have.