Thursday, January 23, 2014

My frustrating experience (as a teacher)

Regular readers know I help out with the Friday morning classes at the dojo when we have them.  Last week I was teaching the yellow belts a new stance: back stance. The back stance is the 3rd stance they learn, starting with front stance and side stance (as beginners) then back stance.  The main difference in stances is where the weight is: more on the front leg, or balanced, or on the back leg, respectively.

After breaking down the back stance for a good while, I had them move forward and backwards with it.  I noticed one woman keeping the weight on the front leg.  This wasn't unusual to see because they're used to moving in a front stance, and even those who get the weight distribution wrong understand when I tell them to push it back.  Some need to hear it again and again and again, but they can shift back.

This one time, though, I had someone who didn't get it at all.  She would step forward with her weight on her front leg, but when I told her to shift her weight back, she just...couldn't.  She didn't get the concept.  And I tried to step through it with her so she had a visual example, but it didn't help.  So I paused the drill and reminded her it was the stance we had just worked on for the last 15 minutes, but...nope, still didn't click.

I found myself getting really frustrated, and I had to stop the drill so I could really break it down.  I recognized I was not in a good place and was getting more upset that I found myself frustrated - a dangerous circle!  I eventually had her step out with one foot just a few inches while keeping all her weight on her other leg, and she finally got it - most of it, anyways.

Thinking back to it, I don't know if I'll face that same scenario again, so I don't think I'm going to change things, but it does make me think about what I should take into consideration.  For example, since English wasn't her native language, I need to make sure I'm clear about the core concepts when I'm teaching them for others like that.  If I'm feeling frustrated, I need to keep it off the student and off of me, by literally taking a moment and thinking of an alternative way to teach the concept.

Teaching something you know is often harder than learning it to begin with.  You can learn how to teach, but the only way you can learn how to handle obstacles is to encounter them.  It's not fun, but overcoming those things is what helps a good teacher become a great teacher.

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