For swimming class teaching assistants

If you would thoroughly know anything, teach it to others.

Tryon Edwards (1809 – 1894)

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?

Martin Luther King

Most TAs tell me they help because:

it’s fun,

it’s prestigious,

they want to pay back the people who helped them by helping the next group,

they finally feel as though they learned the material,

they get hours of experience for their resume,

it can help them get into their next college, or help get a scholarship,

they learn a lot and develop more self-confidence by teaching,

and if they get jobs teaching swimming it helps them recruit for staff.

Statistically, people who are in clubs, teams, student government, or acting as TAs do better in school
and are more likely to graduate than the average student who’s just another student.

Your job description:

give people personal help and encouragement they can’t get with only one instructor, even if it is just standing next to someone the first times they try to float

do boring jobs like correcting and logging homework, pulling lane lines, getting out a backboard and rescue tube(s), clearing gear in the poolside storage room out of the way so we can get at our cabinets or fit people in the room so we can see a video, getting all equipment put away and locked up, (and since I forget) taking the video out of the

volunteering to demo skills and/or be among the first people vdieotaped when we tape freestyle


1) You are role models. All safety rules, class rules and other De Anza rules apply to you as much as
they apply to the students. No one dives into the shallow pool. No pushing anyone into the pool. Use the stairs to get from the bleachers to the
deck; don’t climb over the wall. Using the diving boards at the end of class
requires my permission, a progression of diving skills and a guard each day. Ringers on cell phones and pagers should be turned off. No one wears piercings.

Be careful putting away the weights; don’t try to carry too
many at once, (one in each hand, never stacked) and don’t play games like tossing a weight back and forth. Hey, no running on the
deck. Don’t stand or even sit on kickboards in the water. Changing should be done in restrooms or locker rooms,
not hallways, storage rooms or under a towel on deck.

Report any injuries and equipment or facilities problems
to me immediately. For example, I need to know immediately about people who have pain or trouble clearing ears, including you.

I take loaned swimsuits and towels back wet and wash them myself. They are stored in file cabinets at the bottom of the stairs to the underwater room, on the left.

When backboards are put away wet, they should have their velcro unrolled so it
doesn’t mildew.

2) I’m the person De Anza hired to teach the class, and I’m the one person responsible in the end. So what I want is what we do.

Don’t teach ahead of what I am teaching in class.

Don’t teach beyond what I teach. (Especially do not teach breathing to the side on freestyle until late in a novice or beginning class when I have decided that certain people are ready. If they try it before their arm motion is good enough it will not work.)

And hey, nobody gets to tell my jokes and stories except me.

3) We work on the presumption that all our students can learn to swim. No student is too old or too immature or … to learn what is

4) Some of the novice class has never been in a pool. Others have almost drowned and might or might not want to talk about it. (Listen, but do not play psychologist.)

5) We get a huge number of students who have been told that they can’t float. Many can’t float horizontally, but that is not at all required to be a great swimmer.

No one can’t float (actually sinks to the bottom of a pool like a rock).

People with more muscle, a heavy bone structure, little body fat (and especially if they exhale the air in their lungs) may float diagonally or even vertically (with their toes touching the bottom of the pool if they float on their back in shallow water). There is nothing ‘wrong’ with this and you should not try to encourage them to, or ‘teach’ them to float horizontally.

6) It is also common and completely normal for people’s bodies to do what they have been trained to do. The students have trained their legs to walk, climb stairs and maybe even ride a bike without hardly thinking about what they need to do. As a result they may have a great deal of trouble learning to flutter kick, and even when they have acquired a flutter kick, when they work on freestyle arm motion they will find their legs reverting to what they were trained to do. You will see them moving their legs as if they were riding a bike or climbing stairs. They can get very frustrated, but you should not. There is nothing ‘abnormal’ when they do this and it can be fixed eventually.

Likewise when people work on an arm stroke it is common and completely normal for them to forget to kick.

7) Some TAs will be here for only parts of a few days, others more often or all the time, by arrangement with me.

8) TAs are not expected to be here all the time, but it’s hard when all or most of the TAs don’t show
on the same day, so if you can work with each other to not leave the class empty-handed it would be
ever-so-useful. We might even set up a calendar.

When you know you will be gone for a trip out of town, or the press of homework gets to be too much,
let us all know in advance. If some of you are already on campus for another class right before ours,
or have difficulty getting here early, then another TA can try to be here a little before class starts. Likewise I need at least one person to stay after class each day.

9) Rank has its privileges. Newer TAs sometimes get stuck with the more boring chores. But repeat
TAs should volunteer to do some of them just so things can run smoothly, and certainly do them when
I ask. You can always make deals among yourselves to divide up work and trade jobs according to
what you like and dislike doing, but consult with me before you trade jobs.

10) When you take on a chore, and haven’t finished it, yet I ask you to do something else, let me know
you are still working on the first job, and I will decide which has priority. But don’t forget the first one in
the process of doing the second.

11) When I’m busy teaching, interruptions derail my train of thought, so try to hold miscellaneous
questions, and wait for me to give you instructions. I might seem to you to be leaving something
important out, and you might want to interject it, but save it for later.

12) TAs should move far enough away from the class when I’m lecturing that they can not only talk,
but laugh a lot, without distracting the class.

13) TAs should try to never contradict or correct other TAs or myself in front of the students, but if it is
truly necessary, do it politely. (I do make mistakes and TAs and co-instructors do need to correct me when I do.)

If you need to argue, do it
away from the class.

14) When you are a student in a class you can visibly dislike another student, or lose your
temper or get visibly angry at other students, (neither of these is a good idea, but it does happen) but as a TA, you don’t have the luxury.

We had a student get overly competitive while we were playing relay race games. He got in the face
of a student who was ‘cheating,’ and in my face when I didn’t react the way he wanted about this
‘cheating.’ (It was just a game!)

Various incidents can get the instructor and TAs angry, but it’s best if we take the
high ground and control our anger. Certainly no TA should ever get physical with a student even if the
student pushes things.

In one class, a student repeatedly sat on a lane line, and a TA repeatedly asked him not to. She lost
her temper and physically removed him from the lane line in a lifeguard carry. This kind of behavior (getting
physical) with students is not acceptable.

Some people have found that they can use their tempers to get what they want. You may have to be the
person to back off in a confrontation even though you never would away from class.

15) When it’s cold or people are feeling lazy it can be hard to get the class into the water and get
started. TAs need to be ready to get wet regularly and quickly without whining. When you have been standing in the sun on the deck the water can feel cool even though it is heated for senior citizens exercise programs. If a TA gets in the pool and complains about the temperature it can make everyone else think the water is cooler than it is.

Keep a positive, motivated attitude. Be professional, patient and flexible.

16) You may help with grading an occasional quiz or homework assignment, but you do
not give students their grades and you should not have an opinion as to the grade they will be getting.
If one of them asks you what you think they should be getting, just say it’s
not up to you and they need to talk to Mary. You might learn things about students that must be kept private (their scores on tests, expected grade, their age, medical conditions, etc.).

17) If you notice people swimming in part of the pool when they should not be, don’t go on your own to
ask them to leave until you have found me and talked to me about it. Be polite even when they are

18) If something were to go terribly wrong in class, an injury for example, the Dean of Physical
Education speaks for the Division to the press or whoever, not you. If you were pressed by a reporter, for example, to make a statement, just say “I’m not the person you should be talking to. The Dean of Physical Education is the person you should be talking to.” Don’t say “No comment.”

19) Students have discovered that if they want to repeat a class all they have to do is get a D or F grade. I would prefer students who want to repeat the class get a “W” rather than a failing grade.

20) When I get busy teaching I don’t always notice that class
time is ending, and students or TAs should give me a ten minute warning. We will frequently stay after the usual class ending time.

21) The first day of class, find and sign a class release.


– – – Read swim class safety rules

– – – Read the course syllabus. P.E. 26A course syllabus

Some teaching assistants have been swimmers as long as they can remember, so people who can’t swim might seem to be a rarity to them, but they are not rare.

According to the state of California:

” Swimming continues to be the second leading recreational pastime (behind walking) in all national surveys.

· 50% of the United States population is non-swimmers.”

According to a 2007 Gallup survey,

39% of adults in the U.S. said they are afraid to put their heads under the water.

62% said they fear deep, open water (which does not have to be the ocean, a big swimming pool can seem to be deep, open water).

– – – Read: Letters from novice students


Being a TA has no required textbooks, but you might find this from the Red Cross swim teacher training to be interesting:

You can download (for free, no secret code required) or print the

American Red Cross Swimming and Water Safety Manual at:

Red Cross swimming and water safety text cover: Red Cross swimming and water safety text coverdigital water safe manual: photo of a computer screen showing part of a digital text

(This had no index, so I wrote one: Swimming and Water Safety 2009 index).


“Those who can, do. Those who believe others can also, teach.”

John E. King in Captive Notions


FYI from my resume:

I was a competitive swimmer in high school, sports editor (as well as
Editor-in-Chief) of the campus newspaper, La Voz, as a student here.

I taught lifeguard training as an unpaid teaching assistant (part or full time) for four De Anza instructors before I was
given the assignment as my own all the time. I also taught novice swimming for six quarters
as an unpaid assistant to the instructor who invented the De Anza version of it. I have taught other
instructors various tricks of the trade of teaching as a ‘master’ teacher.

I’ve been on the faculty at De Anza since April, 1988, first in Physical Education, then in Biological and Health Sciences (since 2000) as well.

I have been a lifeguard, lifeguard captain or in charge of the swim of 50 triathlons or open water swims, including the Danskin Women’s Triathlon (6 years), National Triathlon for the Physically Limited (4 years), Bud Light (4 years), All For Kids Day (2 years), San Jose International (2 years) and the 25th Anniversary Far West Games (1992). My husband and I were lifeguard/swimmer escorts for a “Pier to Pier” 6 1/2 mile swim from Capitola to Cowell’s beach in Santa Cruz in 1998. In 2009 we guarded the National Seniors Games Tri. Since 2000 I’ve brought lifeguard volunteers to the “Escape from Alcatraz ‘Sharkfest’ swim and/or the the Alcatri and/or the Golden Gate Bridge Sharkfest swim as well. From 2004 to 2014 we guarded the Silicon Valley Kids Triathlon.

I took Ellis and Associates lifeguard training and sat in on a YMCA lifeguard training to
learn more about other methods. I read new manuals as soon as I find out about them, including Ellis,
Y, USLA, Canadian Alert Lifeguarding in Action and various City manuals.

See also Personal Info