Thursday, April 7, 2011

Choosing kids for my class.

My kids participate in martial arts training. They work out very hard. They are always expected to do their best and try harder. Sometimes they spar and sometimes they get hurt. I think that this is good, but not because I like fighting. Life is full of bumps and bruises and if you can't learn to get up and dust yourself off, you are going to have a hard time. Mostly, these lessons are a lot of vigorous exercise with a bunch of life lessons interspersed.
  • When someone is having a bad day, they are told to regain their focus and let it go during the class - just like you have to in life when your dog just died and you still need to go to work.
  • When someone is discouraged because something comes easier to other people; they are told to look straight ahead. "You are only competing against your previous best".
  • They are reminded that rocking out the stuff that comes easy to you doesn't test their mettle nearly as much as trying their best at the stuff that comes hardest to them.
  • They find that, whatever it is that you are learning, it will come easier to some people than to others. If it is harder for you - you just have to put in the extra effort.
  • They find that sometimes the right move, done perfectly, doesn't have the intended consequence. You just have to figure it out from there.
  • There is no shortcut around putting in the time and effort.
After a frustrating day of teaching a bunch of distracted kids, the instructor said that his ideal would be to have try-outs and only accept the students that met his ideal of effort and intensity training and showed promise. And, if that ever happened, his school would not be the same place it is now. Ultimately, I think that he would regret it. If he were able to do that... his school would turn out perfectly conditioned and phenomenal fighters. There is no question that his team would be amazing. But, he wouldn't be changing lives anymore.

Here are the kids that need this Sensei the most:

  • The boy that doesn't believe that he can succeed.
  • The girl that doesn't know how to carry herself in social setttings.
  • The boy that doesn't participate in sports because he isn't confident in his abilities.
  • The girl that doesn't like her body.
  • The boy that doesn't know what to do when someone picks on him.
  • The girl that doesn't believe she can succeed in something if she doesn't get it the first time.
  • The boy that doesn't connect with his friends except through videogames.
  • All of the kids that are easily distracted, unsure of themselves, don't believe in their own power to make decisions, don't value their personal achievements, measure only their failures, and find it hard to value themselves.

I have seen children like these attend this class and slowly find their way to stand up taller. They cry less when they are sparring. They sometimes (even if it isn't always) dust themselves off and fight back when sparring. They find that with time they can do things they thought impossible. They learn that leverage is more important than brute strength (and, if that isn't a metaphor for life, I don't know what is). They find that hard work sometimes does pay off, and they might learn to value themselves.

As a teacher myself, it is really easy sometimes (especially on a frustrating day) to gravitate toward wanting to teach the "A" students. They are receptive, positive, and they get it. But, they would have learned it if a monkey taught them. They might like me and be responsive - but, they don't need me. The kids that need me are the ones whose lives I might change. They can be frustrating. They can be difficult. They can make you stay awake at night - wishing that you teach only the best-of-the-best. But, when you teach the students that need you most, sometimes one of them becomes something that they didn't believe they could. My son will probably never be a top-notch black belt. (But, who knows, anything is possible with enough grit, and he is learning to find that.) What he is learning is to believe in himself. If you truly believe in teaching, you aren't in it to make more people just like you; you are in it to make more people that find the worth in themselves. Whatever that worth is.

1 comment:

LGraf said...

I came across your blog searching for inspiration. As an over 45, overweight TKD whitebelt 30 days into training I am struggling physically and mentally. I really like your post, and find it inspiring to continue in my journey. Thank You!