Without our incredible, committed teachers, Puddle Ducks Bristol & Bath just wouldn't be the successful swim school it is today. Discover the stories of our teachers Polly, Annette, Laura and Becky, below:
Polly - I will treasure my Puddle Ducks journey forever!
I will treasure my Puddle Ducks journey forever!
Puddle Ducks quite often refer to ‘the journey’ in relation to customers, but us teachers go on quite a journey too. My journey has lasted eight years and it has been one I will treasure forever. It started when I spoke to Sarah and decided straightaway that this was the company for me. Sarah’s warmth and passion drives our franchise forward, making it a great place to work, I can’t imagine having a better boss or team around me.
Baby and Pre-School
Lots of training later I started my first classes as Parson Street – I had such a great time there and I met lots of children who I still see today, but they are swimming lengths of the pool now and swimming better than me!
As Puddle Ducks teachers we are rewarded all the time with children achieving great things – this could be a distance swim, blowing a bubble or even lasting the whole lesson with no tears. We share the highs and the lows. There are lots of things that happen during a Baby and Preschool class outside of our ‘lesson structure’ - we can’t help but get to know our children and their wonderful families, we know if Mum hasn’t slept or if there is challenging behaviour!
We see families week in, week out. There was one little girl I taught whose parents were told she wouldn’t walk. We adapted activities so she could always join in …then one day, she walked onto poolside shouting my name. Magical.
Something else that stands out was the time Puddle the Duck came to the pool at The Grand, but all the children were frightened so I had to ask our mascot to leave! This was also the time though that about four of my Dippers achieved their 5m distance swim aged three years old, so amazing.
Always one of the hardest parts of my job is when people leave, or things change and I have to leave classes. I am always thankful that we work in water because over the years lots of tears, both happy and sad have been shed.
Sarah was also one of the first franchises to launch Swim Academy and I was lucky enough to travel to Head Office with Sarah and Tina to train teaching children aged 4 – 10 years. Demand grew quickly and Tina and I launched classes at Cadbury House. I feel very fortunate to have worked with Tina so much in my early days, she has been a mentor and a friend.
Swim Academy is a different challenge as a teacher but just as rewarding. We get children attending our classes who have never been in the water before and they do not have their parents alongside them. It is our job to gain their trust. I love building this trust, you’ve got to be patient but you are rewarded 100 times over. One little boy took nearly a whole term just to get into the water, and then another term to blow a bubble but when he did blow that bubble, it was the best bubble ever! The same little boy is a brilliant swimmer now.
I have loved my eight years of teaching, it is a special time when you forget what’s happening in the outside world, you immerse yourself completely in the moment. You laugh and cry with your classes, and more often than not, get a big hug at the end. What more could you want.
Annette - Puddle Ducks saved my life!
Puddle Ducks saved my life!
Eight years ago, I was a mum who wanted to take her baby swimming, and I chose lessons with Puddle Ducks.
My first class was a disaster! The pool took much longer to get to than I thought it would, I had no idea how long it would take to get both me and a baby changed and we entered the pool 15 minutes late into the lesson! But every week I went, and I loved it, as did my daughter Violet.
Six months in and I was told by my teacher, "You'd make a great teacher", to which I laughed and said I needed to get back to my career (which by then turned my stomach as it didn’t fit with my family life any more).
Soon after this, Violet, my always-confident little swimmer, turned into a demon, screaming at the pool every lesson, and for weeks would only get in with a fluffy rabbit toy that was sacrificed into the water each week. Breaking point came from sleep deprivation over-spilling into a lesson where I cried and got a cuddle from my teacher. Sure enough, as she said, it was a phase that would pass and it did. From that day, the pool became my safe space. I soon found myself to be a poolside assistant, and training as a teacher for the Nottingham franchise.
As an isolated mum with no family nearby, Puddle Ducks became my lifeline. I met likeminded friends and I gained new colleagues who supported me through some of the hardest years of my personal life.
Teaching families and children gave me great joy and a distraction from the negatives outside the pool, so I lived for the happy hours in or at the pool. It might sound extreme, but I have no idea how I would possibly have coped if it wasn't for Puddle Ducks. It doesn't just offer personal survival skills for the water, it offers opportunities to forge friendships and share parenting troubles.
When I decided to relocate back to my home county of Somerset, I contacted Sarah in Bristol, and have been teaching here for nearly two years now. I’m quite literally the happiest I can be with my family nearby, and lovely new colleagues and children and families to get to know. Life couldn't be any better!
As for Violet, having started with Puddle Ducks at 11 weeks old, she is nearing the end of her Puddle Ducks journey, having got her 100 metres distance award recently. She has learned a lot too. We learned the value of "monkey walking" when at aged 4 she threw herself off a raft in the middle of the River Trent. She swam to the Jetty but it was so high she couldn't climb out – and had to monkey walk 20m to get to the ladder. I got a whole new understanding as to why we teach monkey walking that day!
Laura - I love my job, my customers and all my colleagues
I love my job, my customers and all my colleagues!
Working for Puddles Ducks has definitely been my best job to date! I was first introduced to Puddle Ducks through a friend when I enrolled my son at the Cadbury House Hotel classes, and he was lucky enough to be in Tina’s class.
I instantly loved what I was seeing, such a gentle approach to swim teaching and always a friendly face. I knew straight away that I wanted to be involved and within a few weeks a job for Poolside Assistant was posted online. I hadn’t been working since the birth of my son and wasn’t intending on returning to work but couldn’t let this opportunity go amiss! I got that job, then one thing led to another and I have now been teaching both Baby and Pre-School and Swim Academy classes for over two years! I love my job, my customers and all my colleagues and feel so lucky that this opportunity crossed my path.
Also, my son just achieved his 5 metre distance award, and I couldn’t be prouder. He is such a confident, happy swimmer and this is all down to Puddle Ducks (Tina in particular).
Happy 10 year anniversary Sarah, founder of Bristol & Bath, you should be so proud of your achievements, and I’m sure I speak for all of your customers and staff when I say THANK YOU for making every child feel happy, safe and confident in the water. I’m excited to see what the next 10 years hold and can’t wait to be a part of it!
Becky - taking my son swimming led to a complete career change
I never thought booking my son into a swimming lesson would result in a career change for me!
I first discovered Puddle Ducks when my son Archie started swimming with Diana at Woolley Grange in September 2016. He had just turned one and although we had been swimming for fun before, he had never had lessons. We started in Splashers, where parents are gently encouraged to reduce the support they give their babies.
Right from the start Archie loved it, he splashed around whilst smiling and laughing. I could see how much he enjoyed the activities and songs, and at the same time he was learning so much. I especially loved how babies and children were carefully taught to be safe both in and around the water in such a gentle but effective way.
One week, Diana mentioned Puddle Ducks were looking to recruit more teachers. I had thought about becoming a swimming teacher before, and the more I had learnt about Puddle Ducks through Archie’s lessons, the more I was keen to become a part of their team. I was having such a good experience with Archie in the pool that I wanted to help other people see how much they can get from swimming with their babies and children, as well as the obvious other benefits to the little ones.
I met with Sarah, who talked me through everything, and it sounded so exciting and worthwhile. I don’t think bosses could be more patient, understanding and reassuring than Sarah, so when I was offered the opportunity to join the team I immediately said “yes please”. The upshot was I thoroughly enjoyed the training – which was intensive - but the practical experience with real customers has been hugely valuable. The other Puddle Ducks teachers were all very supportive, kind and helpful and it was great to train alongside some other new teachers too; we have become good friends. After many nerve-wracking assessments, I now teach over 25 children at Stonar School every Saturday and absolutely love it.
Archie’s enthusiasm for swimming is still strong and he is now a Dipper. He is vocal in his lessons and Diana is great at engaging him. His love of the water definitely helped shape my decision to become a Puddle Ducks teacher and I am so glad I booked that first lesson for him. I had no idea it would result in a career change for me!