One by one students plopped into the water and swam their best. Finally, it was Gregory’s turn.
He cautiously stepped down the ladder into the water and hung onto the wall, looking at me for further instructions. I asked him to start swimming and go as far as possible—but I only received a couple blinks as a reply. Then I asked if he could put his face into the water, at which point he continued to look at me—face nice and dry. Based on his tense and nervous body language, I concluded his swim test and placed him into the level one group of beginner swimmers.
Since Gregory was nervous about moving in the water, we began each day by walking and running back and forth between the walls of the pool. Then we started to hop so that we could become more comfortable with our feet coming off from the bottom. Not only did these exercises warm us up, but it also worked on our balance in the water. It was a patient process, but each day his skills progressed farther than the day before.
Gregory began to not only trust me to keep him safe but also to trust himself. His body became less and less tense in the water so that he was eventually able to float on his back unassisted. On the last day, Gregory could kick on his back half-way down the pool without stopping—a far distance from where he was on the first day!
Now when he comes to programs at Ocean Beach, he knows that he’ll be okay. I hope that one day all of New London’s students and the rest of the community have the opportunity to participate in swim lessons and water safety, just like Gregory