Sunday, November 05, 2006

Learning to Teach

I wasn't sure what to expect when Master Hughes said he was going to start a "leadership class" for brown and black belts on Sunday afternoons.

He emphasized that the classes would mostly help us learn how to teach.

"When I'm not able to be here, I still want classes to be taught the way I would teach," he told us.

I arrived a bit late to the first class, today, to find a small group--some kids, some adults--working on a communication exercise. Ms. Pryor paired me up with Jessie. We sat back to back. Ms. Pryor handed me a sheet of paper with a simple drawing on it.

"I want you to describe the drawing so that Jessie can draw it without seeing it."

Cool exercise! It made me be aware of how precisely you need to describe things for people to be able to know what you're talking about. As a writer, I relied on metaphor ("It looks kind of like a pie, or a clock saying 7 p.m.")

We moved on to discussion of other issues: different learning styles, how to teach new white belts, how to challenge brown belts, our responsibilities at the dojang, and loyalty.

"How do we teach students loyalty?" Ms. Pryor asked.

Hmm! Kind of like "how do you teach good attitude," a question I have to wrestle with as a Mom all the time.

My classmates had some ideas: through example, by telling stories about why we need to be loyal to our school.

"How about you, Jane," Ms. Pryor asked me. "When you started, I remember you saying you weren't sure you'd stay to be a black belt."

It's true. You might see some of that attitude back in my March-April 2005 entries. I was just going day-by-day, enjoying martial arts, but making no commitments, no promises.

"I think for me, I didn't have loyalty to the school at first. If I had, it would have been cheap loyalty," I said, kind of thinking aloud. "But seeing how much the teachers will do for Tae Kwon do and for me, and how much my classmates will do for Tae Kwon Do and for me, and how much we all love this school--all that helped my feelings of loyalty to the school grow."

I'd never really thought about that until I was called on to speak about it.

We were also called on to speak in another way--we were all asked to tell a short story, something that would motivate students, maybe after a hard class.

Wow, I have tons of stories to motivate writers, mostly stories about difficult parts of my life as a writer. But it was hard to think of a story . . . about martial arts! My life in martial arts has been so short.

Still, I liked that Ms. Pryor did this. It gave everyone a chance to hear their own voices, and be part of the class that day. It made us accountable. It was a bit of experiential learning. I bet everyone has now thought of another story to tell (I have!).

I think I'll enjoy these classes. I'm all about pedagogy in my professional life--I teach and I've taught teachers (see my June 2006 entries about the faculty workshop).

A colleague at the college said to me this week, "One mark of a professional is that a professional doesn't just do something, a professional reflects on what he or she does." It seems like Ms. Pryor is making us reflect on and think about what we do.

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