Water Babies is looking for new instructors in the Bristol area. As an introduction to what the role entails, local mum Jackie offers an overview of how she combines her job with her family life

Becoming a parent seems to go hand-in-hand with career changes. When priorities and lifestyle shift, many people look for work that’s more flexible or home-based in a quest to achieve that balance between ambition and job satisfaction and having a young family.

Six years ago, Jackie swapped her school classroom for a pool classroom when she started teaching for Water Babies. Keeping her love of teaching, but without the stress of the education system, she explains what makes her job so special and how it works so well with her family.

My day begins with getting my kids ready for school, trying to make them porridge while re-reading my toddler plans for the umpteenth time. I teach so many different levels and ages from babies to pre-schoolers, all with hugely varying personalities and abilities, that there is a lot to remember to make sure each lesson is tailor-made for each child. Once my children are safely at school, I can really focus on the lessons. This means going through my plans over a quiet breakfast and rehearsing certain activities and songs in my head, and sometimes out loud!

It takes me five minutes to get to the pool at Church Farm in Winsley. This is great in terms of fitting in with my family life while working with families in my local environment and knowing my kids are only down the road in Bradford-on-Avon.
I love the familiarity and happy memories from swimming there with my own children. Getting the changing area ready and set up all my pool kit takes a surprisingly long time, but I enjoy taking my time doing this and setting up my plans and registers. The pool is maintained by the owners, but I double check everything’s safe and hazard-free for my swimmers. It’s all set up beautifully at Church Farm, though, so I only have to add the finishing touches.

I feel a bit nervous beforehand, even though I’ve been teaching for six years and have known some of the parents for all that time. I think it’s just the anticipation of getting everything right to make sure they have a great lesson. The moment I see the children I forget about any nerves and am 100% into the lesson as there is a lot of energy and presence needed to run the classes.

I love the toddlers and babies equally, as well as the variation of classes – the babies who take time to settle, parents who are really nervous or children that join Water Babies later on and then find their confidence are my most rewarding. I also love the toddlers who complete the whole course just before they start school. The relationship I have with these children is really special.

While teaching I am really aware of the class’s mood. For example, I may have a nervous parent or unsettled child, so I have to adapt the activities as I go along. The toddlers can get quite boisterous so I need to continuously assess how they are following safety instructions and adapt activities to calm the mood and to take control back! So, there is an awful lot of thinking as well as physical energy needed while teaching my classes, and it’s exhausting for these reasons. But I genuinely feel on a high while teaching, a real buzz. Even when things aren’t going well I am thinking ok, I need to pull this round as things happen that are out of your control, but it’s down to the teacher to make every class a success.

Once I’ve finished, I feel a bit of a relief that everything has gone well. I instantly start reflecting on what went well or otherwise: how could I do things differently? I evaluate what each class needs to do for the next lesson, and the rest of the course. What did they enjoy? How I could improve the management of the flow of the lessons to get the most out of the 30 minute class? I drink loads, tidy away my kit and have a very slow shower with various products to indulge myself and hide the eau de chlorine. Then I’m at the school gates and look down at my flip flops and feet and realise the crinkles and wrinkles give me an appearance of being 108, or perhaps half-person, half-reptile… I also sound pretty hoarse for a while afterwards.

The setting up, clearing away and looking after all of the kit can be quite time consuming but necessary from a health and safety point of view, but the absolute joy of spending those early years with children and their families is precious. Such a special time in people’s lives so to be part of these little people’s journey feels amazing and I love it.

Jackie teaches at Church Farm in Winsley, and Three Ways School at Odd Down. Water Babies also has lessons in Radstock on Sunday mornings. To find out more or book a free taster or to find out about working with Water Babies, call the friendly office team on 0117 946 6919.