Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Korean or American?

Karateforums.com has a really interesting strand going now in their Korean Martial arts section asking the question: "Would you prefer to train under a Korean instructor?"

So far, 16 people have answered the poll, and 76% says "doesn't matter." 19% say they'd rather have a Korean instructor.

Those who say "doesn't matter" explain in several ways--that both Koreans and Americans can be good--or bad--teachers. It's the skill and ability to teach that's most important, not the country of origin. Sometimes, in fact, if the Korean instructor isn't good at speaking English, that can make the class more difficult. One person said that he'd had trouble with a Korean instructor who seemed to prefer other Koreans, though many others took objection to that post.

Those who said they wanted a Korean instructor said that the Korean instructor may be "more in touch" with the spirit of the style. One person said that with a Korean instructor, you'd get more of a sense of that culture.

Master Hughes and I were just discussing this issue the other day. He told about a student who came to him after taking classes with a renowned Korean martial artist. The student was not very good, but after taking several classes with Master Hughes had improved a great deal. The student's parents said that Master Hughes's class was much better than the one with the renowned Korean's.

How does one choose a good teacher? I think that different people look for different qualities in a teacher: skill, strictness, ability to encourage, approachability, ability to explain difficult matters, patience . . .

I've written here before about the problem of just assuming someone who's good at something can teach it. That's certainly not true. Not only do you have to have skill in an area, you need experience in helping people learn, and you need to remember how you learned. In fact, sometimes I feel better at teaching something I've had to struggle with. At any rate, you really have to learn how to teach, through experience, mentoring, and reflection. TKDRocker has written about this in her blog recently. I think she has a good mentor!

Our school has a nice variety of teachers--we've often talked about that in the locker room. Master Hughes has high expectations, but endless patience, good humor, and great ideas for breaking down the steps of diffucult moves. He sets a wonderful atmosphere for learning--which is half the battle with teaching.

The other teachers add to this learning atmosphere. Ms. Pryor is super-athletic, willing to work on the basics with us, and good at explaining things one-on-one. Mr. Wasson is a young teacher still, but he has a calm presence, lots of energy, and is also willing to walk around and help people during class.

Stacy is great at working one-on-one--she knows her forms really well. She also remembers what was hard for her and what worked. I think it's important for teachers to remember the struggle!

I also think that Jeanne must be a great teacher after having her be my judge at the test. She noticed things, and was helpful and encouraging.

There's a great variety of teachers at our school. I'm trying to watch them and learn how best to help others learn--that's a big part of being there.

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