Wednesday, 22 July 2015

You the man

Normally when I get a phone call from an unknown number at 1.11am, I tend not to answer it. But the other night I ignored my first instinct, I answered the call and I'm glad that I did.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post called Scared little kid where I talked about working with children and the moments that make me love my job. You should check it out if you haven't already. It was quite a popular one (especially in Slovakia?).

Anyway I mention that because that post was about those moments when you feel really good about yourself and your job. Those break through moments when you can see that what you are doing is making some sort of a difference (no matter how big or small). That by teaching someone to swim, you are giving them joy and in a small way you are making a positive difference to their life. In a similar way, that phone call a few nights ago also made me feel pretty good about myself because it doesn't only happen when I teach child (just more often as out of the 110 or so people I taught to swim this term, only four of them were adults).

So let's go back to last Thursday night. It had been a long day, towards the end of a long week, towards the end of an extremely long and tiring 14 week term. I was tired. Both physically - my job is quite physical and I also went climbing after work - and mentally. I was ready for bed. I really have no idea what made me answer the phone. Normally when my phone says "no number" - even at a reasonable hour -  I don't pick up. Hell, most of the time, even when it's a reasonable hour and I know the person calling, I still don't answer! But that night for some reason I answered.

The phone call was from an adult who I had taught to swim a couple of months before. They will of course remain nameless - not least because during the conversation they mentioned that they were in Ibiza and that maybe work didn't know about it - and for further anonymity they will also remain sexless too - although I think that by their actions it might be easy to guess whether they are male or female? Or maybe not?

Ok so here's the thing. It had been a difficult couple of days. At work I had a received a couple of negative comments - heavily out weighted by positive feedback but still - about my swimming lessons, which didn't feel great. I then also had a huge run in with my boss about it. So I was feeling slightly... I don't know... vulnerable.

Then out of the blue, I get this late night phone call. At first I think it's a wrong number. It's late and - although I very rarely go to bed before 2am - like I said, I'm currently very tired. Also my ears are constantly full of water and olive oil - I will write about this soon -  the person on the other end of the phone has a strong accent and it sounds like they've had a drink or two as well. So it's not very easy to understand them at first but they soon fill me in.

First they explain who it is, that they are on holiday in Ibiza and then they let me in on the reason for their late night call. So just a few months ago this person was basically a non swimmer. Then through the hard work we both put into the lessons - especially the swimmer themselves -  by the end of the 12 lessons, we had managed to really get them moving up and down with a nice, regular, efficient technique. They really did make a lot of progress and it was great to see. Like I mentioned in my post the other week; these are the moments that I teach for. The moments that make it all worth while.

So this is what they told me: while on holiday they had swam across a swimming pool to a bar in the middle of the pool, gotten themselves a drink and swam back again. Which night not sound like a big deal to any strong swimmers out there, but for them it was clearly a big deal. You could hear the pride in their voice. They did something that up until recently, would have been completely impossible. Listening to them tell me this it felt really great that I had helped to make it possible. Then they thanked me and called me the man, several times. And for those few seconds I felt like the man!

I felt like the man because I had helped them achieve something, but not just that but because they had taken the time to ring me. Which they had done because it was clearly something that meant a lot to them but also because they clearly thought that I would want to hear what they had to tell me. And they were right! I definitely enjoyed hearing it. It was great to hear that they were able to do it, that they were appreciative of my help and mostly importantly, that they were clearly - and rightly so - proud of their own achievements.

It was a great phone call to receive! Especially at a moment when - I wasn't having doubts exactly, but - I definitely could have been feeling more positively about my job and my own performance within that job. So maybe I'll be more likely to pick up a withheld number phone at 1am in the future? Because that one last week was definitely well worth picking up for!

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