When students in The Academy at Seymour High School started swimming in their adaptive physical education class, Machary Polite was afraid to get his head wet and put his face in the water.
By the sixth session, the freshman was playing basketball in the pool with his classmates from the special education classroom and jumping off of the diving board.
“If you had a chance to swim again, you wouldn’t be afraid of the water, would you?” instructional assistant Ronda Cain asked him.
“No,” Polite responded.
Cain told him the swimming lessons with teacher Dave Boggs helped him become familiar and comfortable with the water.
“When are we coming back again?” Polite asked, helping Cain realize the impact the sessions made on him.
Polite said he didn’t know how to swim before, but he was able to learn a lot and improve.
“I know how to move my feet and my arms now, but I didn’t know how to breathe out and then breathe in,” he said.
He knows if he keeps working on it in the future, including during the adaptive PE unit the next three school years, he will only get better.
“We’ll do it again next year during PE,” Cain told Polite.
She said it’s very rewarding to see the students succeed, whether it’s in the classroom, in the pool or outside of school.
“A lot of them I thought wouldn’t go in the water were not afraid to get in the water, and they really showed some extra steps that we didn’t realize that they would get,” Cain said. “In the water, they felt freedom, and they felt enjoyable, and they were playing with others and interacting with other people.”
Even the students who use a wheelchair were able to sit on a lift to get into the water, move around and exercise.
“It’s wonderful,” Cain said. “It was very, very good. It’s a good thing all the way around.”
About six years ago, Boggs said he suggested to Catherine DuBois, who was an assistant principal at the time, that it would be great for the special education students to have a PE class dedicated to them.
“She got it done, and this is what we’ve got,” Boggs said. “We just thought we needed a real full-time class. It’s just better for all concerned, and it just took off.”
Along with regular PE activities to work on strength, aerobics and hand-eye coordination, Boggs decided to add a unit on swimming since he has been the school’s longtime swimming and diving coach and teaches a lifeguarding class.
The sessions focus on drownproofing.
“We work on basic water skills to try to get them to be able to float and tread water. We figure if we can do that, that’s going to be a big help,” Boggs said.
“Hopefully just being a little bit more aware of the water and they should never really swim alone. If they are on a boat, they should have a life jacket on,” he said. “Most drownings are from people not expecting to be in the water, so we just try to make sure they are all water safety prepared.”
This year, he was pleased to learn most of the students could swim pretty well.
“Most of them are really good swimmers,” he said. “We’re just fine-tuning some skills, and we might have a few nose holders, so we try to get rid of that.”
He had two students who are certified lifeguards on deck to ensure everyone had fun and stayed safe, and others from his lifeguarding class got in the pool with The Academy students.
“My lifeguarding class has really enjoyed being with them,” Boggs said. “Really, with both of these classes, I can let my guard down and not be so hard-nosed. I can just really work with them and have fun with them and interact. They are such a pleasure to have.”