Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Teaching Tae Kwon Do

Today there are new students in class, two girls and two boys. Mr. Houtz needs to get them up to speed on basic moves, so he leaves Patrick to lead the rest of us (Robbie, Eli, Dylan, and me) in the usual basic moves drill.

Patrick knows his Tae Kwon Do. Despite being just 10, he is a solid-belt, which means he is learning both kinds of forms, as adults do. He attends classes every day, and last Saturday, he stayed for both the Ninja Kids class and the all-belts class! He's home-schooled, and a bit heavy--maybe both those are reasons why he spends so much time at the dojang.

We all line up and wait for Patrick to call out the order of basic moves.

"Low block!" Patrick calls. We all perform a low block, and stop. Patrick turns around and goes down the line, correcting stances. We do another, and he corrects again. Dylan starts to act up, falling on the floor or yelling, which makes Patrick mad. He orders Dylan to do push ups. Dylan does them in a floppy kind of way.

All this time, I'm waiting for my workout, and Robbie and Eli are enjoying the goofiness. Order is breaking down. I glance at Mr. Houtz, but he is wrapped up with the new students.

I should be doing this, I think. I'm only a white belt, but I'm an adult and a teacher. I could keep order.

Peer-to-peer teaching is hard to do, especially if your peers get unruly. What authority does Patrick have to order someone to do push-ups? He thinks that his status as a senior student allows him to correct his peers, but I don't think that really can happen. Johanna makes the same mistake, thinking that her black belt gives her the authority to criticize and yell at others, while she rarely shows encouragement or kindness.

Children who are learning to be senior belts need to be taught that the way you lead your peers is through example, not through bullying. You need to be an example of respect and courtesy, you need to set an example with your good moves and forms. Using your seniority to push people around just will not work.

I think that's really the way it is when anyone teaches, to be honest.

Well, I do get a chance to teach a bit. At the end of class, while the older kids are practicing their breaking techniques, I help the new students work on their roundhouse kicks. I'm not a black-belt but I am a teacher. Teaching I can do.

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