Stories from the Bench: Fish Face


Kids are loud.

Kids are very, very loud.

So you have to be prepared.

I was covering for a coworker’s shift and discovered very quickly that kids misbehave with substitutes. They scream, they cry, and they make puppy dog eyes that the normal teacher would have brushed off.

“Miss Lisa! I wanna do freestyle!” one of my younger swimmers yelled, and all three of the other kids in the class quickly added on. 

“Rings!” one yelled, turning around and leaning into my basket filled with toys and kickboards, his little hands grabbing at any toys he could find.

“Kicks! Kicks!” another one yelled, pulling my kickboards out. In his haste, he accidentally hit his brother and chaos ensued.

Everyone was fighting over the kickboards and rings, their voices shrill, echoing throughout the pool deck. All four of my students were kicking as hard as they could, splashing up enough water to have the instructor in the lane over glance over to make sure everything was OK.

I had had enough.

“Fish Face!” I ordered, my voice booming above theirs. Quick trick for anyone trying to be heard over children: make your voice as low as possible and use your whole chest to speak loudly. It booms across any space, doesn’t irritate your throat, and most kids immediately quiet down.

All four made fish faces, their lips puffing out with their cheeks as they tried to speak. Luckily for me, it was only muffled sounds that came out. 

Unfortunately for me, Fish Face only stopped their voices. All four were still jumping all around the bench, pulling on my sleeve or smacking their classmate in order to pull my attention to them. 

“We will be swimming freestyle all the way down to my bench and then back. First one, ready, go!” I ordered, keeping my voice that same booming level it had been at earlier as I herded them all onto the bench. The first kid swam off, followed by the second, third and then the fourth.

It was going peachy.

Until they all sat back on the bench and found the kickboards I had mistakenly not put back in the basket. 

Eight little hands grabbed two kick boards, kicking and screaming as they tried to be victorious in their fight. The same noise and splashing I had quieted down earlier had come back with a vengeance. 

Unfortunately for these six year olds, I was victorious in this fight. I stole the kickboards from under them and threw them as far as possible to the pool deck. Even with the kickboards gone though, my four students started up again, clambering over each other to demand for different skills and games.

“Butterfly arms! Everyone make your diamond arms, pull your light down with your hands, then throw the bulb away in a big circle!” I ordered. My students groaned, immediately trying to convince me that playing with rings was a much better activity than butterfly arms, and that jumping into the deep end of the pool was very informative.

Soon enough, they were stuck doing Fish Face until it was their turn to leave the bench for butterfly, with the promise we would jump into the pool at the very end of class.

They got their promised jumps, don’t worry. It just took a few more Fish Faces to get them there.