I’ve been attending a water aerobics class at our local gym, and despite the inconvenience of having to shave my legs and the horror of having to wade into a pool of strangers in my bathing suit, this good fit exercise has offered up a myriad of lessons that transfer to the non-liquid classroom. If we are to be teachers of the highest caliber, the following will be mirrored in some way in our own rooms.
Positive Reinforcement: The first thing the instructor does each session is to walk the length of the pool checking for water bottles (I did not have one the first day). She points to each bottle saying, “Gold Star!” “Gold Star!” “Gold Star!” No one is scolded for forgetting or not knowing they should have had one. There were no actual gold stars, but I still wanted one….so I brought a bottle the next time and my inner six year old swelled with pride when she pointed to mine and said, “Gold Star!”
Modeling: Modeling is explicit, with verbal as well as physical cues. She shows the correct way and the incorrect way, declaring, “Like this, not like this!” in order for us to get the greatest benefit from our independent practice.
Monitoring: Once instructions are given, she vigilantly monitors, providing praise, encouragement, and small corrections as needed.
Differentiation: It is understood and expected that we participants are at different levels, and it is ok. Instruction is given to all, and modified briefly for those who are new and those who are advanced. “If you are new or not a strong swimmer, come to this end of the pool and do it like this, those of you who have been here 6 weeks or longer, try it like this…”
Purpose: Everything is explained with phrases like, “This is what you are working on, this part of your arm right here” (my dear fellow teachers, we were tightening up the part of my arm that waves at first graders when I am writing on the board).
Element of Fun: After working hard, we play a game that keeps us moving, but energizes everyone. The pool of strangers can’t help but giggle as soft squishy toys are tossed all around the pool.
Celebration: Today you burned 400 calories! Cheers and applause end the class.
Current Research: There are two different instructors. One is a certified water aerobics instructor, and the other….well, she is a sweet, kind, and well meaning, but her class doesn’t even begin to compare with the teacher who has the most current knowledge in her schema. This element is especially important I think, because it doesn’t matter how nice I am, how fun I am, or how much I like kids; If I don’t have a solid, strong foundation based on the most current research, I can not possibly provide what is truly best for my students.
And that’s it….except for the lesson to always have your glasses so you can see the numbers on your lock when you get back….but that doesn’t really pertain to the classroom…so we’ll just leave it at that.