Monday, May 8, 2017

How students can affect your teaching.

I get to teach very different groups of people, in different situations.  Sometimes it's taiko to people who've never played taiko before.  Sometimes it's karate to people who have been doing karate for years.  The combinations change, but there tend to be two general types of groups I encounter.

There's the quiet group who doesn't ask questions, often even when prompted.  They tend to do what you tell them, but it's mostly a monologue from you to them.  Then there's the group that is likely to ask questions, especially when they hear information they don't agree with or when it contradicts what they've heard before.  There's dialogue, even when it's not in a path you planned going in.

Now there's nothing wrong with either group, but sometimes they can take a difficult turn.

For example, when the quiet group just blinks at you, when you're making jokes or trying to be engaging and getting nothing back, boy is that draining.  In taiko, even total beginners tend to smile, but in karate I've had groups without any expression at all.  It could be due to intimidation of my position as a black belt, but...I'm not a harsh teacher and I tend to use humor.  Also with a passive group, it's easy to feel like a really good teacher - because I'm telling them what to do and they're doing it.  That's good teaching, right?  Ehhh...not necessarily.  If I'm not teaching them something good, then it's just parroting, not learning.  And "monkey see, monkey do" is not a great way to impart wisdom.  I can easily get a false sense of ability without anyone asking questions, anyone challenging me to explain something better.

But on the flip side, a group that keeps asking questions can make you feel like they don't believe you, or that maybe you don't really know as much as you thought you did.  Even if they're being respectful and asking questions genuinely, it can easily disrupt a lesson plan if you had a schedule you wanted to get through.  And it's draining in a different way than the above group, because you have to be more flexible, more on your toes.  It's easy to come away from a group like this feeling like you're not a good teacher or even a skilled artist, or to feel like you're mean, clamping down on the discussions by limiting questions or cutting people off.

So what's best?  There's never a "best".  It depends on your personality, the level of the people you're teaching, the kind of questions being asked, the mood of the people listening to you, etc. etc.  But these groups can greatly affect both your teaching and how you think of yourself as a teacher.  It's not limited to groups, either - a single student can have the same effects on you.

Another thing to consider?  How do you affect teachers with how you are as a student?  Hmm...

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