Thursday 29 September 2016

Surviving the difficult second lesson

Published 16/11/2015 | 02:30

John Greene: now understands the basic concepts of swimming. Photo: David Conachy
John Greene: now understands the basic concepts of swimming. Photo: David Conachy

The second lesson was always going to be tougher than the first. I knew that. Once I decided to learn to swim, I began fixating on lesson number two.

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The thinking behind this was simple: the first lesson would be about my teacher figuring out what she was working with, so the second lesson would be the first real obstacle.

I was right, it was tough.

But I was prepared for it. My fixation became a positive, not a negative.

Grainne, my instructor, may have a different view but I felt more focused, more attentive to what she was saying, and more aware of my own strengths and weaknesses.

My movement in the water is all very mechanical at the moment. I'm doing what I'm asked to do. I try to process each new piece of information and connect it to the last. It doesn't always work and in those moments it's important to control your annoyance. It is very frustrating when you know you are not doing what you should be.

There are moments, though, where it all comes together and that gives you confidence. It's like getting a par on the 18th after a poor round of golf - it sustains your enthusiasm until the next day.

Anyway, after two weeks, teacher and pupil seem to have found a way of working: we talk about everything we do - a lot. Like any teacher or coach, Grainne plans each lesson, and the learning outcome is outlined in advance. She describes what she wants me to do, and then she shows me. When something goes wrong, she seems happier when I can explain what caused it. There's a great George Bernard Shaw line about this: "What we want to see is the child in pursuit of the knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child."

In eight days, I have learned to swim half a length. It's not pretty, but it's a dramatic improvement. For the first time in my life I understand basic concepts about swimming. Equally, I very much realise how far I still have to go.

TIP: Don't just listen, understand. John Greene

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