How Can You Make Your Swim Instructors Smile?
Dear Swim Professor:
How would you encourage, insist, demand, or coax an excellent instructor into smiling and quit frowning? I have tried everything. He loves what he does… he just doesn’t and cannot display pleasant facial expressions, and has a natural “concerned” look most of the time. He is excellent, he gives high fives, kids like him. It bothers me and I feel parents don’t see him as a great teacher. They have referred to him as a “structured” teacher. I’m worn out addressing issue with him and lost. He says he’s trying but I don’t see it!
Judi M., Swim School Owner
This is such a great topic. Smiling is such an important aspect of swimming instruction, customer service, and even customer loyalty for our swim schools. I have put together a fairly extensive article for you to share, and I hope other swim schools and learn to swim programs will benefit from today’s blog as well.
In 1989, my sophomore year in college, I started my first Swim Lessons Program at California University of PA. I was entering unchartered territory, having convinced the university to allow a student (me) lease their swimming pool to teach swimming lessons to the children in the community. Up until that point, I had been my father’s assistant. My dad was also a Water Safety Instructor, and he was my first mentor. I remember standing in my dorm room. I was both excited and nervous at the same time and he knew it. He told me, “Jimmy, just smile while you’re teaching, maximize practice time, and your classes will go great. What great advice! 22 years later I remember it like it was yesterday.
I will say this: Smiling is not always easy for young teachers. They do have a lot to think about, a lot of responsibility, and they know it. My best advice to get a young instructor smiling is to tell them to “be a little silly.” If you can make your students laugh now and then, you are bound to smile and laugh with them. How can you not? Smiles and laughs are contagious, especially when they are coming from children. I would caution young teachers to be careful not to lose the integrity of the class, use good class management skills, and keep it structured—but you can have both structure and fun.
While I don’t think we can “make” our swim teachers smile, we can help them if they want to be helped and we can try to inspire them by sharing the benefits. Of course if they don’t want our help or they aren’t making an effort to improve, we need to decide if we want to keep them around representing us. Our instructors are the lifeblood of our business, and for many of us, our business is the lifeblood of our paycheck. Like you, I have swim teaching techniques, philosophies, and lesson plans that I expect my swim school staff to follow so we can be consistently successful. But if we’re going to be successful, we as swim school owners and program directors need to be great leaders. To quote John Wooden, we should “Strive to build a team filled with camaraderie and respect: Comrades-in-arms.”
So what research has been done on the smile? What are the experts saying?
In his article, “Teacher, Do You Smile,” Mr. Harekrushna Behera, Unchahar shares how a teacher touches the heart of a student through the magnetic touch of smile. He adds that a smile creates confidence & love among the children. ‘Unless the children love the teacher, how can they love the subject?’ The smiling face of the teacher says “love and caring,” and creates a positive vibration among the children who become fearless to express everything. They begin to ask questions. ‘Freedom automatically happens when smile exists in the classroom’. Asking questions then empowers their capacity to learn.
Smiles make things right again and say much more than words can. If you’ve goofed, said something less than complimentary, feel lost or alone, or feel down, a smile can set things right again. A smile lets other people know that you’re prepared to be open to them, and that you’re willingly agreeing to set things right where needed.
Smiles create trust and rapport. A smile is a great way of establishing mutual feelings of being on the same level as others, whether that is one-to-one or in front of a group giving a presentation. A smile says “I’m OK, you’re OK, and we’re all going to enjoy one another’s company”.
Research shows that when we smile, even when we’re not in the best mood, we begin to feel better. Marianne Douglas, a blogger for Secrets of Success for Teachers, points out that our bodies equate certain expressions with certain feelings. We can feel good and smile or we can smile and feel good. It works both ways. That’s why people who are feeling sad are asked to “smile” to feel better. We actually do. So here we are as the teacher smiling and feeling better. Our smile is reflected back at us by the students who in turn feel better. A great way to start a class! Your students will have a better chance of enjoying their time in your class too!
Steve Nakamoto says that unfriendly habits make other people feel uneasy right from the start. Your job as a master communicator is to greet every person you meet in a friendly manner so that they can feel the natural warmth of your kindness, acceptance, and recognition. Except for the more serious circumstances, a warm and enthusiastic smile creates the best starting point for a mutually enjoyable conversation.
The point here is that you must possess inner feelings of warmth, excitement, and joy in order to radiate a genuine smile. When you have real positive emotion behind your smile, you can be more effective with other people than you would be by acting with only politeness or courtesy.
Remember, by beginning in a friendly manner with a true eagerness to share, you will be developing one of the smartest communication habits for establishing or building important person
As swimming instructors, one of the easiest techniques that I believe we can use to start smiling more is to cause our students to smile. When you make your students smile, it will be easy to smile back.
Another technique I use is to have my students do cute things that cause their parents to smile or laugh. Same result. Take a quick peak at the parents after you do something cute with their little one, and you’ll see them smiling. Smile back! In our Foundations of Teaching Video Course, we use what I call “Fun Feedback.” These clever little tricks will make your swim parents smile and giggle every time.
I also wanted to share with you a few YouTube videos I found that do a wonderful job of communicating the importance of a smile.
This first short video is by Michael Kerr, an award-winning international speaker, and he talks about the importance of a genuine smile, and challenges us to make other people smile, as I just mentioned. This is a great, entertaining little clip.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIretWnEAEA&feature=relatedal and professional relationships
This second short video is by Jeffrey Gitomer. He talks about “What Makes You Smile,” and gives two inspirational lessons on the power of kindness and the power of cute kids:
The third and final short video I wanted to share is by Cary Cavittt. The first two minutes of this video is very informative and entertaining.
I have one last little study that many of you will find interesting. An experiment was done where men were shown pictures of women and were asked to rate them on a scale of 1 to 10. When the same women was shown in a different picture but smiling, men gave her higher score and they thought that she was more attractive. So in addition to the mood improvements you will get if you smile often–you will also appear more attractive!
Thank you, Coach Judi, for your question. I’d like to leave you with a bunch of quotes I found on the effect of a smile:
A smile is an inexpensive way to change your looks. ~Charles Gordy
Today, give a stranger one of your smiles. It might be the only sunshine he sees all day. ~Quoted in P.S. I Love You, compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
A smile confuses an approaching frown. ~Author Unknown
People seldom notice old clothes if you wear a big smile. ~Lee Mildon
The world always looks brighter from behind a smile. ~Author Unknown
If you smile at someone, they might smile back. ~Author Unknown
Life is like a mirror, we get the best results when we smile at it. ~Author Unknown
Always remember to be happy because you never know who’s falling in love with your smile. ~Author Unknown
Everyone smiles in the same language. ~Author Unknown
If you don’t have a smile, I’ll give you one of mine. ~Author Unknown
I’ve never seen a smiling face that was not beautiful. ~Author Unknown
The shortest distance between two people is a smile. ~Author Unknown
Is a smile a question? Or is it the answer? ~Lee Smith
Smiling is my favorite exercise. ~Author Unknown
Every day you spend without a smile, is a lost day. ~Author Unknown
Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing. ~Mother Teresa
A smile is the universal welcome. ~Max Eastman
Keep smiling – it makes people wonder what you’ve been up to. ~Author Unknown
You’re never fully dressed without a smile. ~Martin Charnin
A smile can brighten the darkest day. ~Author Unknown
Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important. ~Janet Lane
All the statistics in the world can’t measure the warmth of a smile. ~Chris Hart
Smile! It increases your face value. ~Robert Harling, Steel Magnolias
Peace begins with a smile. ~Mother Teresa
Most smiles are started by another smile. ~Author Unknown
It takes a lot of work from the face to let out a smile, but just think what good smiling can bring to the most important muscle of the body… the heart. ~Author Unknown
A smile costs nothing but gives much. It enriches those who receive without making poorer those who give. It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever. None is so rich or mighty that he cannot get along without it and none is so poor that he cannot be made rich by it. Yet a smile cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is of no value to anyone until it is given away. Some people are too tired to give you a smile. Give them one of yours, as none needs a smile so much as he who has no more to give. ~Author Unknown
The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim. Jim was the first American to win the award in 10 years.
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