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From Mum on Poolside to Merbabies Swim Teacher
Teacher Lesley Knox’s Journey
Our Merbabies experience started when my partner wanted to take our son swimming as young as we could and he found Merbabies. We started taking Luke along aged 11 weeks old (Now 13 months) and he loved it from day one. I loved the classed so much and could see the benefits of early swimming for the babies and the parents.
I wasn’t specifically looking to become a swim teacher, I was at the end of my maternity leave as a Staff Nurse and was feeling the old dread of returning to work when I saw a message from Anna on the Merbabies Facebook page advertising a vacancy for teachers. I emailed her only in a half serious way initially but before I knew it I was talking about the course and it fuelled some excitement in me and I knew I really wanted to do it.
The teacher training is really rigorous; Pre training I had done lots of shadowing classes watching the Merbabies teachers at work, then to get your professional qualification there is a three day course 9-5, mixing practical time in the pool with lots of classroom based learning. And prior to the course starting there was a workbook to read which was pretty extensive and a portfolio to complete that was marked by an examiner on the last day of the course, approx. 10-20hrs online work I would guess. On day three of the course there is a theory exam and a practical in the pool exam marked by external examiners and submission and marking of the portfolio. A further online course had to be completed regarding safeguarding of children. Lastly a one day course called safety award for teachers which is almost like a mini lifesaving course with first-aid and safety in and around the poolside covered. I enjoyed the training but was genuinely surprised at just how much of it there was. I am impressed with standards though and if anything feel confident that if any issue was to arise in the pool we would all deal with it efficiently.
I qualified as a staff nurse 12 years ago and before Merbabies it was my main job, working with an agency so I could work shifts around my partner and didn’t have to worry about childcare. Three kids in childcare just wouldn’t work out financially. I now work with Merbabies 3 days a week and as a nurse 1 day a week and this is working our perfectly for our family life. The personal benefit for me that teaching brings is that I get to continue working with hours that suit me and my family. As a mum of four finding work like this doesn’t come along too often. The job is more than just splashing in a pool and smiling at babies, I spend evenings researching swim techniques and activities ideas and songs to sing! As well as writing out lesson plans on a weekly basis for my classes. Benefits family wise, I’m home to do the school run every day, the only day I use childcare for Luke is a Wednesday but it’s a grandparents day which he looks forward to as much as my parents look forward to having him!
Luke is still a Merbaby! He’s been in classes for approx. 10mths now and still loves it every week! He knows when he is at the pool before we even get indoors, he’s been in class with some of the same babies since they all joined and are like a little family. He’s confident in the water he splashes and kicks knowing he can make himself move along! He can hold onto the side of the pool without assistance now and is trying to pull himself out! He is regularly fully submerged under water and it doesn’t faze him one little bit. He started to walk independently at 10mths old and I’m absolutely convinced it’s because of the swimming.
I didn’t choose Merbabies, Merbabies chose me! I was just a mum sitting poolside watching my baby splash happily in the water. Watching Luke learn the holds and cues was incredible! All the babies looked happy and natural in the water, I liked that the program wasn’t regimented and that if the babies didn’t like something the moves were changed or activity altered to suit them and not the teacher. The teachers all had a wonderful way with the babies and knew them all, some from practically birth! The kids know their teachers and are happy to see them and happy to be handed over to them, who wouldn’t want to be part of a team like that.
Lesley teaches classes in Edinburgh, Livingston, Fauldhouse and Linlithgow. (And whenever she’s not teaching, she is also still poolside for Luke’s lesson with his Dad every week!)