May 2, 2013

My Swimming Student’s Grade



In high school I was a swimming teacher. I only had one student.

I was a student volunteer in the swimming class that semester. The swimming teacher assigned me to work one-on-one with a student who was deathly afraid of the water.

Week by week the student, whom I’ll call Joyce, refused to  approach the water, Meanwhile, all the other students were working on advancing their swimming skills one more notch, from beginner to intermediate, intermediate to advanced, etc.

It took much coaching and patience to entice her to step to the edge of the pool, then to sit on the pool edge. After more enticing and she stuck her toe in the water. Then her foot. Class by class she advanced. By the end of the semester she was in the water, in the shallow end, learning how to float.

Swimming grades were dependent on advancement to the next swimming level. By the end of the semester Joyce hadn’t even begun to work on her beginner’s card.

The teacher consulted with me about Joyce’s grade. Joyce hadn’t achieved the necessary advancement to earn a decent grade.

“How do you think I should grade her?” I was asked.

“I know she didn’t advance in the normal way,” I said. “She did advance however. She went from fearing the water to being able to enter it and even to experiment with floating. What she achieved was greater than moving up a skill level.”

My teacher looked perplexed, like she wasn’t certain what to do. There were the rules…and then…

I was pleased that Joyce received an acceptable grade.

What also pleased me was the respect I received from a teacher who listened to my opinion.  She did not have to. She did not even have to consult me. And most seriously, she did not have to consider my opinion.

It turned out to be a win, win, win situation. Joyce won. I won. And our teacher won.

And ultimately, society won. This form of respect is what healthy relationships are all about. This is the type of respect is what our nation is all about.



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