Training: Removing “ok” from your language
- This is the one simple fix you can apply to your language to make you a stronger, better teacher.
- Turn your uncertain requests into direct commands that make swimmers listen.
- Quick effective action to turn your beginning staff into more confident instructors.
Set up your training
This training module is a little different than the others. It is designed less for an in-service, but instead a training task you can give to every new swim instructor. While it is immediately apparent once we point it out, most people struggle with this initially to change their behavior. It happens very subtly. Even veteran instructors occasionally drop an “ok” at the end of their sentences.
Podcast about removing “ok”: Remove Okay from Language
Resource article about removing “ok” from your sentences:Remove Okay from sentences
Training Activity#1: Count the “ok’s”
Hand your new instructor a piece of paper, and a pen, or some type of way to document counts. The new instructor will have to sit within hearing distance of a particular class (typically a beginner, or novice instructor) and tell them to count the number of times that teacher says the word “okay” at the end of their sentences. We’re looking specifically at the end of a command, at the end of a sentence, in a place where the work “okay” mean something other than the affirmative positive.
We will be counting the instances where the instructor says the word “okay” at the end of a command. Make a note of each time it is said.
Pay attention to:
- Ignore “okay” if it is used at the start of a sentence, “Ok, we’re going to do…”
- Ignore “okay” if it is used to answer a question. “Ok, yes, that is fine.”
- Count “okay” when it is used at the end of a command, “We’re going to do jumps, ok?”
At the end of the lesson, or at the end of 15 minutes, count the total number of “okays’
How does this teach?
When we are aware of “okay” we are more likely to stop doing it. Most beginner instructors are unaware of how often they turn their commands into questions while they’re speaking. Most don’t even realize they did it.
They are usually substituting, “do you understand,” “did you hear me,” and “are you ready” with the word “okay.”
The new instructor that does the counting will see how easy it is to say it often, and it should give them awareness of it when they’re running their own classes.
The teacher that you count, can either be aware that they’re being watched, or not, and should receive the total score at the end of their lesson. Review with the teacher how important it is to say the question you’re substituting with “okay” as most kids will not know what you’re asking. It will turn their commands into questions.
Training Activity#2: Three and Three
Read the following four commands:
- Do as many bobs as you are years old
- However old you are, do that many bobs
- We’re going to do three front glides from bench to bench
- Billy, go first
Now, read the same sentences again, but this time with the word, “okay” at the end.
- Do as many bobs as you are years old, okay
- However old you are, do that many bobs, okay
- We’re going to do three front glides from bench to bench, okay
- Billy, go first, okay
I deliberately didn’t put the punctuation there, but when you say it, which set of sentences would have a period at the end, and which would have a question mark?
You can use your own commands, or do this activity in any variation you want. The point is to illustrate how such a small subtle addition can completely alter your command and erode your authority.