Welcome to Ashley’s Aquatic Academy! My name is Ashley and teaching swim lessons is my passion. At the age of 15, I accepted my first summer job. You can probably already guess what job I am referring to! It involves a bathing suit and fun in the sun… You got it! Lifeguarding! Right before my fifteenth birthday, I completed my training class, received my certifications, and applied to the city pool.
Most of my friends were applying as hostesses or supermarket clerks, but I had the inside scoop. You see, my grandmother and mum were both lifeguards when they were my age and had been encouraging me to give it a shot, The 120 degree Arizona temperatures had me second guessing whether this was the best job for me, but I promised my mum I would give it a chance.
I ended up loving it. I made tons of new friends, became confident in my ability to prevent all types of aquatic injuries, and got paid more than all of my friends! (Little known secret: A lifeguard’s starting hourly wage is usually a few dollars over minimum wage.)
This first summer at the pool was great, but I was itching for the big bucks! (As a fifteen-year old, any potential promotion seems like the ‘big bucks.certification) At the time, you had to be 16 years old to take the classes required for a swim instructor certification, so I was only able to lifeguard while the second year guards taught their lessons. It looked easy enough and I knew that as an instructor I would get paid an extra two dollars an hour, so it was a no-brainer for me.
I turned sixteen at the end of the summer and took the first instructor class available to me. I was hired the next summer as an instructor and I started putting together lesson plans. I shadowed veteran instructors for a few weeks, and then I was handed my very own swim lesson class.
Not as Easy as it Looks
I called out the names on my roster; eight children in total, ages 3-5 years old. I instructed the children to make a semi-circle around me. I introduced myself as Miss Ashley and went over some basic pool rules, such as, no running on deck, never go near water without mummy or daddy, and always put sunscreen on when going outside.
Three of the children were well-behaved, listening, standing still, and repeating my rules.
One child, Timmy, was running back and forth from our group to the edge of the pool, not able to contain his excitement.
Four of the children were holding onto mum and dad for dear life, trying not to make eye contact with me. I remember thinking, this is what a pediatrician must feel like when he has to give a child his first set of vaccinations.
The final child on the roster, Ana, was screaming bloody murder at the top of her lungs as her mother dragged her over toward the group.
Obviously, this was not the picture perfect first day I had imagined. It was exhausting and terrifying, but I learned some valuable lessons. Through trial and error, I developed the skills needed to control that class and make sure each child learned skills to keep them safe in the water.
Over the next 10 years, I learned what to do and what not to do when teaching a child to swim. Most importantly, I developed techniques instructors can use to cope with the variety of issues faced during lessons.
For students like Timmy, I place ‘super surfboards’ (usually just kick boards :)) on the deck and direct students to stand on one, arms out, so we catch the waves. I encourage students to keep their balance on the wobbly surfboards, which give me an opportunity to talk water safety and avoid pre-class chaos.
For screaming children, like Ana, I use a technique that many parents struggle with. I recommend parents introduce the child to the instructor, give the child a hug, and walk away…and by away, I mean AWAY. Completely out of site. Once out of view, the child realizes the screaming is not productive (mum and dad are not going to get them out of this one). The screamer/crier catches a glimpse of how much fun the other children are having and quickly decides to join in. Interestingly enough, children like Ana, end up loving their swim lessons more than most children.
All Aspects of Aquatics
Fortunate to have taught hundreds of parent-tot classes, I gained skills to help parents get children in the water before they take their first step. I am experienced in teaching disabled students, some on the spectrum or A.D.D. and some with physical disabilities. Adult Learn-to-Swim classes and water aerobics(deep and shallow water) have been some of my favorite classes to teach and develop. And I can’t forget about coaching swim team!
After my first few years of teaching, I started certifying other lifeguards to teach swim lessons. I completed certifications and taught as a water safety instructor trainer for both the Red Cross and StarFish Aquatics. My team developed and implemented the City Of Scottsdale’s newest swim lesson program. After leaving the City, I continued to teach private swim lessons at people’s homes.
Much Ado About Aquatics
Watching children accomplish a new skill is rewarding. The look on a child’s face when, after two weeks, he finally picks up a ring from the bottom of the pool, makes the hard work worthwhile. When a student finally uses the correct Butterfly stroke rhythm, an instructor can get more excited than the student! There are so many milestones to reach in aquatics.
However, at Ashley’s Aquatic Academy, we teach with one unified mission in mind:
Every child that learns to swim equals one less life lost from drowning.
Arizonans are no strangers to child drowning tragedies. Unfortunately, when summer rolls around, the drowning reports start to appear on the news. It is heartbreaking. So much so, I have considered going door to door teaching lessons until every child learns and not one drowns ever again.
I know this is unrealistic, but hopefully this site can be used as a tool to get the message out. Here, parents and instructors will find tips for at-home lessons and special songs and games geared for certain age groups. Hopefully, others are inspired to take action and work with children they know.
It is never too soon to get a child comfortable in the water, but it is always too soon to lose a child in the water.
If you ever need a hand or have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out.
All the best,