Thursday, March 3, 2011

Teaching Children

This session I've been taking a class with my son. Most of the students are kids and beginners - from "no belts" to 7 Kyus. As a higher rank student, I'm helping out as a Teacher's Assistant (TA) along with a few others. Teaching is a completely different experience from learning.

I may know my martial art at my skill level but this doesn't mean I know how to teach it. One of the things I have learned in karate over the years is that observing and following along really work when you are learning new things. My teacher is very good working with kids so I am trying to emulate some of the ways he instructs. I'm also learning from whichever Black Belt is in class and the more experienced TAs. It seems to be coming along pretty well.

Working with kids and beginners presents some challenges that I understand theoretically but are difficult to overcome in practice. It was almost painful at first to just work on the basics. I am used to working on kyu kumite, multiple katas and sparring. Demonstrating in slow motion forces me to concentrate more on my form and I'd better do it right or the kids may be performing some goofy Sanchin.

While we teach and demonstrate we keep an eye on the students to help correct form or just get the correct foot or hand in front. As you slowly go through the motions, you can see that this way of teaching works. Their eyes are watching you and they are trying real hard to copy you. They also ask good questions. One unexpected comment from a little boy was how I look like his uncle except that he has grey hair. He may need some work. :-)

So what's it like teaching your own son in class? I don't know. Any TA who has a child or spouse in class is not supposed to instruct his relative. It's a good policy. My son gets enough instruction from me at home...Plus he gets the benefit of learning directly from a Black Belt, usually a 7 or 3-4 Dan. So there is no sense of special treatment. It also helps him to work with other students who are not a foot an a half taller than him. We are both enjoying this session. My son likes karate again and will be testing for his next rank soon. I am able to take on a different, yet useful role on the school while my back is healing. It's a great way to give back and I look forward to continuing it.

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