3-20 To the Future me who is trying to Teach

Both Jason and I are learning to play teacher. His actual assignment here is teaching in a classroom while mine has become teaching in a classroom and running workshops. We’ve been learning a lot by teaching. Mostly about how hard it is to teach.

Most recently, we’ve started teaching Hwa Rang Do. Like, actually teaching as opposed to just training with company. That has opened our eyes to a whole new realm of complexity.

The easy side of teaching a physical skill is being able to fall back on, “Copy this.” However, “Copy this,” doesn’t get into the nuiances of where your weight should be or how to turn your hand. If we could exactly copy that which we watched, that would be fine but until someone invents the magic pill for that, we talk.

Unfortunately, we talk in a language that is my fourth language, Jason’s third and everyone else’s second. The language itself has one word for the part of your body that starts at your bum and goes to your toes (leg) and one part that starts at your neck and goes to your fingers (han). There is no word for things like “hip” or “elbow” or “ankle.” Words like “pointing” are the same as “look,” “watch” and “see.” It makes telling someone to point their toes towards the wall sound about the same as “see your knee and that wall” or “your leg should stare at the wall.” Which, I suppose is exactly what I am telling them to do, but still, it isn’t the most specific instruction ever. Then we got into “Use your hip.” The problems start with not having a word for hip and go downhill from there. I think they got it, at least a little, but we’ll see.

So far, my favorite mistake has been counting. When you count as a student, you count with the completion of the exercise. For example, when doing a jab-reverse punch combination, you count as the reverse would connect. As the teacher, you can either count as you start to move or before you move. If everyone is facing forward, as you move works best. If someone is holding targets, before works best. Who’d have thunk that the timing on counting would be so tiny and so important?

We’re learning other things, like how just pulling on a body part gets it there faster than telling someone to move or that partner work with Jason has faster results than partner work with two beginners. These are things we knew, but the lessons are being reinforced. Each guy grappling Jason for thirty seconds made them more aware of how to pin and escape than the fifteen minutes of work leading up to that.

Mainly, I’m learning how patient all my teachers have been. When I was feeling like they were throwing sixteen things at me, which was about fourteen more than I could think of and then telling me my stance was off, I thought they weren’t prioritizing what to correct. Now, I can see that there were really thirty-two things wrong and they did pick and choose. I hope my own picking and choosing is the right combination for each student.

All of this drives home how impressive the accomplishments of Do Joo Nim, the head of Hwa Rang Do, are. He came to a foreign country, taught in a foreign language and has set up a collection of schools that span the US, Italy and a few other countries. His English isn’t fantastic but it hasn’t stopped him from teaching hundreds of students. Here’s hoping our Bislama is enough for our handful of students.

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