They say ‘Never work with children’. Well they may be right but sometimes they sure are fun.
Recently I have been prompted by a group of young swimmers I am teaching, to ask myself, if I could rid the world of just one thing what would it be? My answer… digital clocks. Not world poverty I hear you wonder, or crime? Well now you’ve made me feel bad, so okay, as well as world poverty and crime, I would like to get rid of everything that displays the time digitally.
My reasons are simple. I am at present teaching a gang of young swimmers, aged eight to ten years of age, and they are very unfamiliar with the non digital clock. We spend many hours together each week at the pool. As they begin a set I say, looking at the clock, ‘Ok go at the top’, I say.
Except when I look at them, they are not gone. They remain where they were, looking at me, and at the clock. ‘You should be gone’, I shout. ‘Oh we thought it was the other top’, they reply. The reason being that the hands on our clock are a double hand. So as one red hand points to the top, the yellow hand points to the bottom.
I decided a couple of weeks ago that they were never going to get it without help, so I took them all out of the pool to give them a lesson on the clock!
‘Right, I said, If you go at the red top and come in at the red bottom how many seconds did it take you?’. One or two knew the answer immediately so were banned from answering, but the majority did a lot of pointing at the clock, and made thinking faces. Eventually they gave a huge variety of answers ranging in time from ’20 seconds?’, to ‘one minute’. We persevered and they soon began to get it right. I made it a bit more complicated, ‘What time would you do if you went at ten past and came in at quarter to?’. That lead to even more creative answers, and an awful lot more thinking faces, but eventually they began to understand how to work it out.
So it was time to test them practically. Back in the pool they had to swim two lengths and tell me what time they did. I was very hopeful. They got back into their lanes and just as the first group were about to go, one of the younger ones looked at me and said, ‘Tric, will we all wait until the top?’. ‘No, you all go very five seconds’, I replied. He looked at me, then with a puzzled face, ‘But how will I know my time if I don’t go at the top?’.... Back to square one, with him and a few others, but eventually they said they had it. So a lot less hopefully I sent them off.
Back they all came and I began to ask them their times. Silence. En masse, they put back on their thinking faces, and turned to the clock, fingers pointing they began counting, five, ten, fifteen…. Thankfully some did actually get it right, so we continued with some more swims, and eventually they began to calculate their times quickly. However one young swimmer was having untold difficulty. ‘I’m sorry Tric, but I can’t figure out my time’. she admitted. ‘No problem, I said, where did you go in the lane?’, (meaning first, second, third etc so I could calculate what time she began on). ‘Here’ she said, pointing to where she was standing!
Eventually, I decided they were ready for me to further ‘test’ them., I said, now we’ll do one lengths’. They looked at me in horror. ‘What! Will we have to tell you our times?’, shouted up one swimmer. ‘Of course, I said’. ‘But how will we know what time we did?’, he continued. ‘I took a deep breath. ‘Look at the clock and work it out’, I replied. Just as I was about to set the first group off, he shouted up at me, ‘Ah Tric,go on, will you just give us a clue’.
A week passed and they continued to improve. They even began to enjoy the challenge of trying to swim faster. I was beginning to pat myself on the back. What an amazing teacher I was. Success. I turned to one young swimmer and asked her what time she did. ‘one minute forty five’ she replied quickly and correctly. ‘Well done’, I said even more pleased with myself. Then one of the other young swimmers shouted up, ‘Ask me Tric’. So I did. ‘I did a one minute 25’ he said, proudly and incorrectly. ‘Sorry I don’t think you did that time’, I said as gently as I could, knowing for a fact he was wrong. ‘Wrong’ he shouted back at me, ‘You’re wrong Tric, I did do that time’. ‘But, I said, that is the same as the fastest time you have ever swam in a competition’. ‘Yes’ he replied. ‘So, I said, you just swam as fast as you did in your fastest ever swim?’. ‘Yes I did, he replied, sure that’s why I’m so tired!’.
Smiling, I decided to leave it there. Years of competing, and even more years of teaching have taught me that sometimes you just can’t win!