Managing - Swim Teacher Motivation

by Pool Builders on 01-02-2009 in Articles

Swimming teachers enter the profession for many reasons, but the overriding one is that they want to help people learn to swim safely. Most teachers start their swim teaching careers with a passion for the sport, a genuine desire to be great teachers and a dedication to learning about the latest techniques, drills and teaching styles. Teaching guides give plenty of advice on how to keep students motivated and stress the importance of keeping classes attentive, receptive and willing to participate. However, there's rarely a word on the motivation for the teacher. Teachers face a number of difficult challenges; class management, discipline, adjustment to the physical demands of teaching plus the need to create dynamic and inspiring lessons on a daily basis. Remaining motivated in the face of a new and demanding career can be hard and as time goes on it can become increasingly difficult to stay enthusiastic.

If teachers themselves aren't motivated, no manner of methods, approaches or techniques are going to inspire students on an ongoing basis. The primary motivator for teachers is the opportunity to help people learn to swim. Lessons work well when students learn and progress and teachers have a sense of professional satisfaction. However, when students aren't responding or drills aren't working its easy to become despondent and self doubt creeps in. Discovering what matters to teachers and how best to motivate them for sustained and improved performance is a complicated challenge. Research and experience show that teachers value intrinsic rewards such as self respect, responsibility and a sense of accomplishment and without a strong support structure even the best teachers can become disillusioned; with many good teachers leaving the profession after a year or so. There are three main factors that contribute to teachers' enjoyment and satisfaction:

  • Peer Support. Cooperative interaction among colleagues and peer groups is essential. Interaction with other teachers offers more than just hints and tips for lesson drills, but also offers a chance to get "recharged" as a teacher. The meaningful exchange of ideas on teaching and learning helps to drive new ways of thinking but also builds confidence and engenders a genuine excitement about what can happen in lessons. Although team brainstorming may not be an option for casual teachers, look out for Wikis, discussion boards and mentoring programs that will keep you inspired. Mentor or buddy teachers can also break the isolation; show a new teacher the ropes, offer advice and share experience and skills to help teachers grow professionally as they adjust to the realities of teaching. Mentors themselves gain the satisfaction of sharing their knowledge and experience and helping their new colleagues grow professionally.
  • Feedback. Teachers recognize the importance of feedback for students and ensure an ongoing dialogue of proactive encouragement. Recognition and feedback are also important motivation factors for teachers and should be at the core of any professional development program. Feedback can be from multiple sources including both students and peers.
  • Autonomy. The ability to build and develop teaching programs independently, leveraging personal experience and preferred drills are essential to empower teachers to have control over the programs that they teach. Over-structured programs and rigid lesson plans can make sessions dull for the teacher and students. Being able to introduce new techniques keeps the teacher interested and the students attentive.
Teacher retention

Retaining good teachers is essential to building the reputation of a great swim school Keeping teachers motivated will help create an exciting and inspiring program, with successful lessons and enthusiastic students. Recognising and acknowledging good teaching, empowering professional development and nurturing a supportive, sharing environment to build the confidence, skills and enthusiasm of the teaching team will bring a real buzz back to the pool.

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