by Mark Konik
Helicopter parents with their waving arms and Google searched pedagogical techniques don’t bother me. Snide remarks from dinner party acquaintances about the length of my summer holidays don’t bug me, nor does mediating between two small girls arguing about why one looked at the other in a funny way. What I loathe the most as a primary school teacher are swimming carnivals.
Why do I hate those sun soaked days of fun in the sun? It’s not the war cries that still ring in the ear when all the paddle boards have been packed away that I detest, or the fact that everyone is a winner. What I abhor most of all about swimming carnivals is the teacher verses student relay race.
I organise most of the sport at school. I’ve managed soccer teams, netball teams and coached the cup stacking side. I enjoy taking the students to these sporting events. But those zinc smeared swimming carnival days scare me like an Education Minister talking curriculum change.
Water doesn’t scare me. I had some swimming lessons when I was young, but as a family we were never big on water sports. My parents both come from a land locked Eastern European nation and believed that if you’re submerged in more water than is in a bath it meant that you’ve been tricked by gypsies, robbed and thrown down a well.
I just can’t swim the required 50m to compete in the event. I’m a middle aged adult. I even feel embarrassed as I type this confession. The first year I was at my current school my excuse was a sore shoulder from painting the ceiling while doing renovations. The next year my excuse was I needed to go to get a drink, then I hid in a toilet cubicle and didn’t come back until the end of the race. Last year I got backed into a corner. We had a new principal arrive at the school and she personally came up to me and asked me to join the teacher relay side. I pulled at my knee and told her about an injury from soccer, but she said I'd be fine and to make my way to the diving blocks.
I swam the first leg. It was horrible. I dove in and started thrashing my arms and legs in the water, moving at what I thought was a tremendous pace. But within the first 15m my shorts fell down to my knees and I spent the rest of the race essentially side stroking down the pool whilst holding up my shorts. I could see some of the parents taking photos of my struggle down the pool. Out of breathe I finally reached the end of the pool. One of the teachers in my team was genuinely annoyed at me for my slow leg. She told me for the fiftieth time that she did ‘swim club’ as a child and had never seen a worst first leg. We lost the race and I’ve not returned to competitive racing since then.
The swimming carnival is in the second week of this term. I don’t want to swim. Maybe I’ll have to get my mum to write me a note.