One of the joys of being a part of our swim school community is experiencing the positive culture that our staff, students, and families create together. This positive culture is something we consciously work on at SafeSplash for a very important reason. A positive school climate is directly related to learning and success and, in our case, that means learning to swim! Research shows that an environment where students feel safe, respected, supported, and valued provides a foundation for students to best learn and achieve.
There are several elements that go into creating this type of positive environment. Relationship building is a fundamental element. You may hear your coach conversing with students by name and asking questions about their activities, thoughts, and feelings. Coaches build relationships through communication with students in hopes of making them feel valued. When people feel valued, they are likely to work harder.
A shared vision is an additional element of positive culture. This can be accomplished through creating a sense of fairness by ensuring all students are aware of the class rules and expectations. Coaches consistently following through with guidance and discipline assists with this shared vision by helping students feel safe. We encourage students and families to speak with us directly about any concerns they have on building swimming skills so we can work together on our vision!
Role modeling is yet another way in which we set the tone for positive school culture. When we display kindness and show value for each student, we are teaching them these behaviors. This role modeling can encourage respect for coaches and fellow students.
One of the most beneficial and fun ways to create positive swim school culture is with the use of praise and celebration. When we as coaches practice swimming skills with each student, we make a point to use the language of encouragement. We look for things that the student is doing well and point that out to the student. For example, “Awesome, your kicks are looking really good and your legs are nice and straight!” Then we sandwich in a little corrective feedback, such as, “Remember to keep your chin tucked and blow bubbles while you kick.” We finish with celebratory words like “You did it!” or “Nicely done!”, signals like a high five or thumbs up, or sometimes even a song and dance!
One thing we at SafeSplash are sure of: by striving to make swim lessons fun and positive where children (and adults) feel safe and valued, we are doing our best to create a culture of swimming (and social) learning and success!
- Heidi Waltz, SafeSplash Portland