Stories from the Bench: Booty on the Bench


Interactions with kids can be wild.

Add in the fact that they are learning how to swim?

Chaos. Let’s get started.


“Alright guys, booty on the bench!” is what I say to get my students to settle down and get ready to swim. Some days the kids don’t particularly agree with being a human, or they are just in a goofy mood. 

They may be a dog that day, or the Hulk, or even a monkey, and I just gotta roll with it. I have to pretend at any given moment that I am a zookeeper with an entourage of animals, Nick Fury directing superheroes, or dying from the terrors of water splashed at my face. 

“I don’t have a booty!”, one of my students yelled, launching himself off the bench and into the water, bobbing up and down. He was smiling as he bounced, taking big breaths every time his head breached the surface, so I wasn’t particularly worried. 

If he was sputtering and coughing, that would have called for an instant lift back to the bench with my help. But he wasn’t, so I just let him bounce and ticked off his “bob” skill box. 

But I was then faced with the dilemma of getting him back on the bench and staying there, so the plastic toy rings came out.

The rings are brightly colored plastic rings that I throw into the pool and have the kids grab from the bottom by using different skills. It keeps them engaged in the lesson and entertained, since most of the kids find repetitive skills far less interesting than playing around. More often than not, the kids immediately settle down and listen when the rings come out. And it worked in this case as well.

His bobbing immediately stopped, and he made a beeline back towards the bench, quickly settling down as the rest of the class listened to the rules. I explained the simple, “I throw, you dive down, grab it, and swim back.” All three of my students were practically shaking in anticipation as I threw the rings and turned back to them, asking who wanted to go first.

The same student launched himself off the bench with a yell, frantically scoping his arms as he swam. I had to quickly support him with a hand under his armpit, since he couldn’t quite float and swim at the same time yet. 

But nevertheless, splashing and kicking, he crossed the small distance between the benches to grab his ring. A big breath in, and down he went. It took a few tries and a helpful shove from my part for him to reach his ring, though. 

Coming back up with the biggest grin on his face, he waved his ring around in triumph. Was he floating by himself? No, I was holding him up. But he was much more willing to think the water was supporting him, so I let him have his fun. Scoping back to the bench, he kept a hold on his ring as he sat there happily as I took my other student to get her ring. 

“I wanna do monkey, tree, banana!” I suddenly hear, and I whip my head around from my other student to watch him launch off the bench again. Unfortunately, one more kid still had to grab his rings before we could move on, but he was ignored in my other students’ excitement to move on.  

It was a long thirty minutes.