Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Swimming with an International Mix of Kids

Today I went swimming with the upper elementary kids (grades 3, 4, 5, and 6). Swimming is a selective unit in PE, meaning that the PE teacher doesn't have to choose this unit, but our teacher chose it. I give her credit for that, I'm not sure I'd be willing to put up with the hassle of taking 40-something kids to the swimming pool.

We have kids from over a dozen countries and kids with widely varying swimming abilities. We have kids who are at ease in the water, love swimming, and are far better at it than I will ever be.

And we have kids who had never been in the water until their PE teacher made them. The PE teacher says it's usually the Asian kids (Korean, Japanese, Indian) who have never swum before.

This was the 2nd time this year, and there will only be a few more times left. So not enough to really teach a lot. But enough to teach something.

I was asked last-minute to go today, because some of the aides who were supposed to help didn't have swimsuits. I live nearby, so it was easy for the PE teacher to drive me home during lunchtime to get my swimsuit.

We left around 2:10; everyone changed at school. We arrived at the Sports Center, the one I've been to a couple times, swimming with friends. It's very cheap and has a nice-enough indoor pool. One pool is about a meter deep the entire pool, and there is a water slide going into it. There's a little kiddie-pool; there's also a hot tub, attached to this pool.

Then there's a larger pool, maybe not Olympic-sized but your generic, rectangle shape, with lanes. This one is several meters deep at the shallow part. Someone said it gets to 15 meters (about 49 feet) deep. Last year my brother tried to find the bottom and he couldn't.

We waited, crowded around the entrance, for about ten minutes until it was time to be let in. We also had to wait for someone to make a photocopy of the receipt--apparently, they give you a receipt at the cash desk, but but then you have to turn it in when you enter the swimming area. So we needed to make a copy of the receipt for the school records.

Also, you can't wear outdoor shoes in the swimming area, so we all had to change into flip-flops before we entered.

Finally, we got in; we had a room to ourselves, with a key, so everyone got ready and we could lock our stuff in there. We all showered and then we got into the pool.

The principal had called ahead of time and asked if he could pay over twice as much and have the entire pool for himself. It was about $60 or $70 for all of us; he offered to pay $150. They said no.

So it was a rather crowded.

The PE teacher gave me a group of beginners--6 boys--a Kazakh, a Russian, two Indians, a Japanese, and a Korean. Several of them are my students, and the Korean boy is the one who arrived shortly after Easter with absolutely no English. His English is better, but still extremely limited.

The Russian and the Kazakh can do some basic swimming, probably about as good as me (I'm not much of a swimmer, I can do some basic strokes but rather poorly). The Japanese boy was willing to do what he was asked, but always came out of the water with a shocked look on his face, spitting out water. The Indian boys, I think, had done this last year, but were still very wary of putting their heads under water. One Indian boy managed to blow a few bubbles with his head partly submerged. He was extremely proud of this accomplishment.

I'm rather positive that this was the Korean boy's 2nd time in the water, last week being his first most likely. He refused to put his head under the water, saying "No, no, no!" and making all sorts of motions.

One boy taught the others how to go under water--cover your entire face with your hands (make sure you're plugging your nose!) and go under quickly, and then pop back up.

Then they had to jump in, and land with the head under water, popping back up. For the most part, this did not happen, and the Korean boy wouldn't even dare to jump. He did get out and then climb in.

Next, they had to hold onto the side and do the "scissors-kick"--kicking with their legs straight back. How do you say "Don't bend your knees" in Korean? I remember learning this kick; I had found it impossible to not bend my knees, and these kids were no different.

Then the back float. Three of the boys tried on their own, and weren't good, but not entirely unsuccessful either. The other boys I had to hold up, their bodies extremely tense, their heads kept above the water. I couldn't tell if the Korean boy was asking me to do it again, or to never do it again.

He did discover that if he grabbed onto my arm and lifted up his feet while I walked, I could pull him through the water, and he seemed to think that this was a lot of fun.

For the rest of the time we worked on blowing bubbles and putting our heads under the water. Finally, the Korean boy agreed to go under water--with me. And I couldn't explain to him why I can't, I wear gas-permeable contacts which are very expensive and very liable to pop out when wet. So he didn't put his head under water.

Then they were told to go down the slide and then shower. The Korean boy was adamant that he would not, and he managed to "sneak" off without the PE teacher noticing. I myself am scared of the thing, so I didn't chase him down to force him down the slide.

All in all, it was more fun than I'd expected. I enjoyed being with these boys, so nervous & tense in the water, yet so obviously delighted at the same time. At times I think the Korean boy thought I was trying to kill him... but I like to think that he also enjoyed himself, just a bit.

Water is fun for kids, and hopefully they'll leave this school feeling just a bit more comfortable in it than before.

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