Perseverance: Plateaus and Fears
No two things stall progress more than fear and plateauing, and both are incredibly common.
Fear is a healthy, normal response to something new, unknown, or a combination of both. Many of our young swimmers are afraid to get into the pool for their lessons, and that can be stressful for a parent.
Our staff is trained on the various ways small kids express fear and how to help them overcome it enough to settle into a class. We keep toys at the ready to help distract our nervous, fearful swimmers. And our teachers’ “mental toolboxes” are stocked full of fun songs, games, conversation starters, and other diversions to distract kids away from their fears. We understand the importance of building bonds between teachers and students: bonds build trust, trust builds confidence, and confidence builds progress.
Plateauing is also a normal part of the learning process. It gives students time to consolidate (or file away) skills they are learning. This can sometimes take an extended period of time and seem as though the students aren’t making progress.
Everyone (teachers, Decks and parents) should also understand the importance of not pushing students beyond their mental capabilities. This can happen when we do not recognize the plateau and push our students beyond what they are comfortable with or capable of.
Whether facing fear or a plateau, children often learn best through play. Play allows them to make sense of their learning and environment. Remember that learning to swim is a process, not an event and each child develops at their own pace.
Recently, in Half Moon Bay, we had a student (Oliver, 9) overcome a huge hurdle with regression, plateauing and facing his fears:
On the way to swim lessons, Oliver’s mom was telling him what she learned in her class at CSM about facing fear. She is taking a class for herself, to help with her fear and anxiety. She told Oliver that it is good to face the fear rather than turning away from it. When Oliver got in for the class, he looked at his mom and told her, “I’m gonna face the fear today, Mom!”
When Cindy (Director on Duty) came back from her lunch break, she saw Oliver swimming independently with his face in the water. He earned his L1 ribbon! On the way out at the foyer, Cindy praised Oliver, “This is huge! You did it!” Oliver turned to mom and said, “No, it is you, mom! You did it!” Mom was crying.