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Thread: Who Instructs?

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    krazykenpomom is offline
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    Default Who Instructs?

    I have a question about instructors.

    When you are a member of a school, who instructs most of the classes? We (my son,12, rather) have been members of a school for a couple of years and I am very happy with my son's advancement and maturing since he started studying Kenpo, but lately I have noticed that the instructor has not been doing the majority of the instruction. It seems that out of the 2-3 days of class that is scheduled each week the instructor spends most of his time doing other things rather than observing class, instructing, or sometimes isn't even present while class is taking place. My son, 12, is a brown belt and is working on earning his instructor status, but it seems as though he has been doing the majority of class time instruction and the actual instructor is not even paying attention or giving constructive criticism. Is this how most martial arts classes are taught or am I just missing something?
    Our instructor is a good guy and he is in the process of trying to make his studio better, but there have been questions from others who attend the class as to if he actually ever teaches class. I understand my son is learning to instruct, but without being under an actual instructors supervision are he and the class actually getting all of the knowledge that they can?
    Initially my son was being given instruction by our instructor 4-6 days a week and sometimes for several hours at a time and this is how he earned his belts. I'm not asking for the same instruction for the entire class, but actual instruction has tailed off to almost nothing. I am just trying to understand what the "normal" type of instruction is, so I will understand and can answer some of the others when they ask questions as to why our instructor doesn't do the majority of the teaching.

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    Default Re: Who Instructs?

    That is a tough situation.

    First off a 12 yr old should not be instructing, assisting the instructor while the instructor is on the floor is fine but that is all.

    The owner of the school should be on the floor for all classes unless he has qualified instructors to take his place while he is not on the floor.

    It is a very tough job running a school, you actually spend more time doing other things to keep the doors open than you actually do teaching. Many times it is 2 or 3 to one meaning for every hour you spend on the floor you have to spend 2 or 3 hours on other duites. This gets very tough when the school is not your only job. You will want to schedule a sit down with the instructor to see what is going on, maybe offer to assist him with some of the other duties while your son is in class so that the instructor can do the job of teaching. As fo answering the other people who ask if the instructor ever teaches, I would avoid that like the plague and have them go directly to the owner of the school.
    Quality outweighs quantity every time.

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    Default Re: Who Instructs?

    A well-qualified adult instructor needs to be on the mat at all times with the students.

    Initially my son was being given instruction by our instructor 4-6 days a week and sometimes for several hours at a time and this is how he earned his belts.
    And now he's teaching the class under the guise of "learning to teach"

    A couple of concerns. The instructor isn't interacting with yourchild in a way that is age-appropriate. Another is...as your son's mom, you are legally responsible for him until he comes of age.

    If someone gets injured in your class while your son is "teaching", that could be a very bad situation for your family. Personal injury attorneys can be ruthless.

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    Default Re: Who Instructs?

    My instructor won't even teach someone under 18 because of possible injuries.
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    Default Re: Who Instructs?

    I agree that your son shouldn't be running a class by himself. He's only 12. I can see him doing the warm-ups by himself and maybe doing some drills or something, but the latter would only be if a qualified instructor were there assisting.

    As for not getting further instruction, that's kinda what happened to me. Once I started teaching, my instruction dropped off a lot.

    I also didn't get any instruction on how to instruct class. No guidelines, no help, no constructive criticism. I was just given the class and then it was just up to me to figure it out.

    It turned out okay though. (But I'm not 12, either.)

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    Question Re: Who Instructs?

    As to your son's abiity to teach?

    Age is somewhat irrelevent. It depends moreso upon his maturity and his ability to communicate. Not every 12 year old is mature enough to teach classes, but throwing a blanket statement out, that "No 12 year old should be teaching", without knowing the individual, or having seen him is just plain wrong. What happened to the whole Rank = Knowledge thing? Those that answered "He shouldn't be teaching at all", do you in fact simply hand out rank to juniors based upon attendance ? Ability to pay ? If not, then I suggest that perhaps junior, (who sounds as if he has in fact worked very hard, and put in his share of time, by the description), probably knows his materiel. Having said this, I will acknowledge that knowing the materiel, doesn't neccessarily mean one can relay the materiel to another student. I have said before, that donning a black belt (or brown in this case) doesn't make you an instructor any more than standing in a garage makes you a car. Teaching, as any other skill, requires learning, dedication and lots and lots of practice.

    Now, the whole Trial by Fire thing? Throwing him in front of a class, with little or no instruction, that's a different story. Any new instructor, regardless of age, should be broken in gently to the role of teacher. He should be critically observed, and discussions of how the class went, should follow every class, until such a time as it is no longer neccessary.

    We get around this kind of issue in our school, by practicing teaching all the way up through the ranks. However, this teaching is done under direct supervision, and questions are encouraged. By the time one reaches brown or black in our school, they generally have a pretty good fundemental understanding of the educational process and plenty of experience.

    As to, is it appropriate for Junior to be spending all this time teaching, instead of learning? There are two sides to this coin. I propose that it isn't until you are forced to think your way through a technique, from other's perspectives, to reason out all the 'What if's..." and apply the knowledge of basics, that you truly begin to learn. Teaching causes you to look at things from a very different point of view. Having to verbalize, and talk through a technique or form, ingrains the technique deeper into your own memory bank. Fixing or adjusting, subtle inacuracies of others, makes you think about why the technique works for you. It can bring your attention to nuances, that you took for granted. Seeking out analogies, to make a variety of different people understand how something works, or why it doesn't will invariably make one a better student. Teaching the lower levels, also helps Junior to review the vast materiel he's going to be responsible for, in a future blackbelt test. It keeps it, in practice and hones his own edges.

    Does this completely replace working with his teacher, and practicing his current materiel, and/or learning new materiel? Absolutely not. Does it take the place of having his instructor critique and refine his existing materiel ? No, but again, perhaps he thinks that Junior can benefit from solving the problems and dealing with the myriad of variables that tend to crop up when teaching.

    Everything depends entirely upon the individual in question. His maturity. His grasp of the materiel being taught. There are many adults, who are not qualified to be teaching anything, and I have seen some exceptional young instructors. Age should not be the issue here. Experience, skill, maturity and his ability to communicate is what should be evaluated here.

    The other thing you don't mention, is have you voiced your concerns with his teacher? By all means you should definately ask him what he's thinking? Maybe he's just lazy and trying to foist off, the less glamorous lower belt materiel onto someone else...but perhaps he's seen potential, that he is trying to develope? You don't really know, until you speak with him. You are the parent, it is your right to discuss what the heck Mr Teacher is doing with Junior? If he is uncomfortable teaching, doesn't like it, or is having problems because of these duties, that too, need be discussed with his teacher. You are paying for junior to learn. It is Mr Teacher's duty to explain to you, what junior is learning and justify why he is allowing him to fly solo so much. Perhaps he sees something, that he is trying to mold. It is a rare thing, to find someone so young, that is qualified to teach, but not out of the realm of possibilities.
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    Default Re: Who Instructs?

    My 0.02

    First, all concerns should be addressed with the instructor; especially if more than one parent has the same concern. I'm not saying all of you should dog-pile the instructor, but two or three of you could request a "sit down" with the instructor to address these concerns.

    Higher ranking students in most schools will be asked, or even expected, to assist in instruction. It is actually part of the learning process. If one can convey the information contained in the curriculum adequately to another, then that shows that they have a good understanding of the material. Being able to "go through the motions" is one thing, but knowing "why" you go through those motions is entirely different.

    Don't be afraid to talk to the head instructor. They should be receptive to any request from a concerned student or parent. Take the first step and schedule a time to meet with the instructor.
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    Default Re: Who Instructs?

    Quote Originally Posted by SifuDangeRuss View Post
    As to your son's abiity to teach? Age is somewhat irrelevent.
    Boy, do I have to disagree with that! Age, and maturity, have everything to do with ability to instruct. It is highly unlikely that a 12 yr old has the life experience to handle the myriad of problems that can arise when instructing. I doubt he even could have the depth of understanding of the material, which also requires maturity to grasp. While I can see giving an exceptional young student some experience instructing an adult class, he should never be left on his own to do so. And the adults need to be informed as to what is going on and involved in the process of training him to instruct. Throwing him to the lions while you tend to other business is likely to turn out bad for all concerned- you'll loose some of your adult students, the 12 yr old will get discouraged if (when) he fails, and the adults will get shorted on their training.

    Most schools I've seen won't even give a black belt to someone as young as 12, and for good reason. They are not yet developed enough, physically, mentally or emotionally, to have a solid handle on the material. Certainly not enough to be put in charge of a bunch of adults. I think it is a mistake to turn over classes to a 12 yr old, and one that the parents should address with the instructor.

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    Default Re: Who Instructs?

    Unforunately there is a lot of schools that promote kids to Black belt and they do teach adults or you go to local tournaments and there's kids judging adult divisions, I don't agree this should happen. In our school our instructor teaches all classes, kids to adults, I only assist him and maybe once or twice a year will lead the class when he's gone on vacation but only then. If you are paying to be taught by said instructor then you should get your moneys worth. I see this happen in our home town people say 'Oh I'm taking Karate at so and so's but so and so rarely teaches the classes or even are in the dojo.

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    SifuDangeRuss is offline
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    Smile Re: Who Instructs?

    Dan/Southwell, et al...

    I don't dissagree that maturity is key, we simply disagree that age necessarily automatically brings maturity. We don't even disagree that in most cases, what you say is undoubtedly true. What I take you to task for is, judging the kid, sight unseen. Some kids are incredibly mature at that age. Some adults at 40 are not. Most kids at that age would rather be watching SpongeBob, doodling on their notebooks, about how icky the opposite sex is or absorbed into the Game Cube. However, this individual was training, "4-6 days a week and sometimes for several hours at a time". (I bet most of us have few adults who put that much time into their kenpo, because they are busy doing things like....making a living, raising a family or some other pesky, adult thing, that interferes with kenpo).

    Every field has it's child prodigies. Children are most likely to be able to compete at an adult level in fields that are highly structured, with a clear set of established rules. Children seem especially drawn to domains like music or chess, which rely on symbolic representation that relate to each other in fixed patterns. Fields that have more open-ended goals, such as writing or scientific research, often require a depth of experience and abstract thinking that make them difficult for children to master. Now I'm not an advocate of passing out kiddy blackbelts, willy-nilly either. (I've never given a blackbelt to anyone under 18, personally) However, I do have some firsthand experience here. You see, I was this young, rogue, upstart punk, who had a pretty deep grasp of kenpo at a very young age. I was the school computer, when techniques or materiel were being changed, (which at that period we were undergoing a huge global restructuring)...I was the one that they fed the new materiel to, because I would memorize it and be able to regurgitate it back and teach the other instructors. I was also the only exception in our system, that was ever granted a blackbelt under 18. However, I was teaching the other instructors the new materiel. I was fighting (translates to "Frequently got my butt handed to me") and holding my own with the other adults and was competing as an adult. I all but lived in the school, 6 days a week. Initially, many beginners would take a look and say..."That kid is gonna teach me?" However, I managed to convert most and I developed a fairly strong following of loyal students. I was the one they wanted to schedule privates with, prior to testing, to help them polish up their materiel. So this is why I am somewhat open-minded at the possibility of a young teacher. I am in full agreement, that they are a rare, but not unheard of breed. I agree that they should be teaching in a suporvised environment, both for legal and practical reasons. I agree that most 12 year olds are not mature enough to handle the pressures and challenges of teaching kenpo. (I have a 13 year old daughter, that definately shouldn't be given that kind of responsibility) However, there is an exception to every rule. I wouldn't condemn Jr, simply by virtue of his age, without having had the opportunity to watch him in action, and speak with him. If he's willing to dedicate the 2-3 hours a day, 6 days a week to his martial arts, he sounds pretty serious to me. O that all of my students could/would dedicate that much time to kenpo training. Perhaps Jr's teacher sees something special and is trying to nurture the spark that may well become a next generation kenpo great. (Or as I said, maybe he's just foistin' the classes off onto the kid, cuz he's lazy?) I don't know the teacher, nor the student, so cannot judge the case, without more facts.

    It also irritates me, that several local schools, main teachers, sit in the office, peeking sporadically through a 2 way mirror, while their unqualified junior instructors do all, or the majority of teaching. I agree, that if you join Bob's Karate World, then you should be getting some instruction from "Mr Bob".
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    SifuDangeRuss is offline
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    Default Re: Who Instructs?

    BTW...If you haven't, take a peek at the thread in the Members in Motion category at the thread entitled Dragon Dance. That kata was created by some precocious 11 year old.
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    Default Re: Who Instructs?

    SDR, I don't think I judged the kid, I judged the wisdom of just droping a 12 yr old into a situation where he is teaching classes while the instructor is not even present. If this kid is a child prodigy, then I'd say it is even worse to put him into that situation. What a shame to risk souring someone like that on the martial arts because you wanted to do something else with your time other than teach classes. And what a waste to deny further instruction to him and his classmates. How will they ever challenge him and push him if they only know what he knows? I think, based on what the original poster said, the instructor is acting irresponsibly. I also think that it is possible that things are not what they seem in a forum post. SO, I stand by my advice. The parents need to address this with the instructor as a concern. What transpires from there depends on his reasoning and how they view it.

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    Default Re: Who Instructs?

    BTW, I did see that clip. It was...


    prodigiouse!

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    SifuDangeRuss is offline
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    Lightbulb Re: Who Instructs?

    Dan...

    Again, I don't think we are in disagreement. I suggested initially, that KrazyKenpoMom have a te-ta-te' with junior's teacher. As I said, if indeed, he was wasting the student's talents, simply because he can't be bothered to teach...(cuz he's out shopping for that new PS3!) then this is bad, m'kay?

    You're also correct, in stating someone like that need be challenged...constantly. Tis the way will all (potentially) gifted students. I also agree wholeheartedly when you criticize someone for throwing anyone (regardless of age) before a class, with no support. This is something that bodes failure for someone at some level.

    I couldn't have said it any better than Crippler did, "Higher ranking students in most schools will be asked, or even expected, to assist in instruction. It is actually part of the learning process. If one can convey the information contained in the curriculum adequately to another, then that shows that they have a good understanding of the material. Being able to "go through the motions" is one thing, but knowing "why" you go through those motions is entirely different."

    Maybe he's just using this as seasoning, to help him to better understand his kenpo, by forcing him to think through his own answers. This might be just a training phase, allowign him to digest his existing materiel, before learning more. Perhaps junior has simply grown too big fer his belt and this is his teacher's way of showing him what he doesn't know yet about kenpo?

    I'm not justifying Junior's teacher's actions. I think we simply don't know enough about the specific situation. Perhaps, (methodology right or wrong) Junior's teacher is trying to challenge him, by teaching.
    I know, in my case, I thought I knew everything, until I began teaching. Then the more I teach, the more I understand how little I really do know.



    (And as you're beginning to realize...I just like to play Devil's Advocate on just about any issue...lol)

    Part of our role as Teachers, is to expand other people's minds. To get them to look at things from multiple angles and perspectives. To question what others say, as well as their own beliefs. To think. This encourages growth. This helps prevent stagnation. If through debate, you become more firm in your beliefs, then the process was successful. If I make you even think more deeply about the issue, then the process was worthwhile. If you walk away thinking about this for even 30 seconds after you typed your answer, then we both win.
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    Default Re: Who Instructs?

    AH, well, maybe I should have paid more attention to the word "somewhat" in your statement. Sorry. It appears that we are pretty well agreed on most all accounts. As you are probably getting to know by now, I can get carried away making a point (my only fault- well, that, and I hate being humbled).

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    Smile Re: Who Instructs?

    Quote Originally Posted by thedan View Post
    AH, well, maybe I should have paid more attention to the word "somewhat" in your statement. Sorry. It appears that we are pretty well agreed on most all accounts. As you are probably getting to know by now, I can get carried away making a point (my only fault- well, that, and I hate being humbled).

    Dan (Hangdawg) C
    Daniel~san....

    Report for Paint the Fence detail at 9am. We're both warriors bro, I certainly won't ever berate you for having an opinion and standing up to support it. Sparring with words and ideas, is often as valuable as trading groin kicks...(if not nearly as enjoyable) These word only venues, sometimes are difficult to portray subtle nuances. Hence why I often try to insert a *...wry grin..* to let others know I'm not taking myself too seriously. I baited you, by not revealing my own vested interest in this thread initially to spark some thoughtful response. (Much the way I tend to lead in freestyle with my hands exageratedly low or high to bait an desired attack, so I can respond with my prepared technique) See? Kenpo really IS a way of life.



    After you paint fence, wax car, Daniel~san.
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    Default Re: Who Instructs?

    Quote Originally Posted by SifuDangeRuss View Post
    Daniel~san....

    Report for Paint the Fence detail at 9am. ... Sparring with words and ideas, is often as valuable as trading groin kicks...(if not nearly as enjoyable) These word only venues, sometimes are difficult to portray subtle nuances. ... I tend to lead in freestyle with my hands exageratedly low or high to bait an desired attack, so I can respond with my prepared technique ... Kenpo really IS a way of life.



    After you paint fence, wax car, Daniel~san.
    Boy, that Sam Pai must really be a tough art! Groin shots are enjoyable nuances? Paint the fence, then he wants to fight, and after that I get to wax the car- even if I win? And this is a way of life! At least he let me sleep inabout 5 hours. I think I'll need it.

    Dan (one hurtin' unit) C

    edit- krazy-mom: sorry, we digressed a little. SDR and me are like two ADDS kids in the back of the class. Always in trouble. But I'd say you've gotten some good advice here from everyone. I'd address this as a concern and see what your instructor says, then take it from there. Good luck.
    Last edited by thedan; 11-18-2006 at 07:56 PM.
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    Default Re: Who Instructs?

    Well, it has taken me a while to respond to y’alls comments, but I am going to try again, it seems as though the first 2 times my responses ended up in cyber-la-la-land!
    Your comments have been well structured and have given me a lot of food for thought. Our situation is a bit strange because the instructor is also the owner of the studio and we are acquaintances/friends/neighbors. There are times that we have had the task of running class foisted upon us because he has “other” things to do or just doesn’t show up for one reason or another. At times, we have had class when he has not shown up and after we leave and talk with the instructor/owner later, we are “griped at” because we were supposed to stay longer for a new student/class that we were unaware of and that we were not told about. The instructor/owner is trying to get his studio going better and I do understand that there are innumerable things that he has to do, but he is leaving the class to be taught by my son without any type of supervision, other than mine, and then he expects things to be done how he wants without his leaving any type of instructions or what not.
    My son knows the techniques inside & out, but the questions usually arise when the instructor/owner does not show up or even get on the floor to supervise. The instructor at times attends but does no supervising of what is being taught and at times, it places my son in some unique predicaments. My son is friends with all of the students, adult & youth, who attend the class so at times there are circumstances that arise which he has a hard time handling. When there are students who are “jacking around” or there is an adult who has a question that they do not feel that a “kid” can answer to their satisfaction, it puts my son in situations that he has not yet had the life experiences to handle.
    Since our instructor/owner has been doing this my son along with a few others who are pre-teens/teens are becoming disinterested in going to class because he is no there to instruct and doing the same drills and techniques repeatedly does not pique their interest. If the instructor/owner would take the time to offer different techniques, weapons training, self-defense, and real-world applications or something their interests would be more stimulated and they would remain interested longer. I believe that there have also been a few students who have left the school because of the instructor/owners not doing the majority of the teaching and leaving the class to my son. It is not because of my son’s instruction, but rather that they were expecting and were told by the instructor/owner that HE teaches class and that they were not getting what they paid for.
    My son and the others have invested quite a lot of time and effort to get to the levels they are at and I do not want to see them lose interest in the art. I understand that instructing is a way of giving back to the art and it is an honor to be an instructor, but at the same time, the instructor/owner should do more first hand instructing and supervising so he can answer those questions that arise that a young man of 12 cannot do. Granted, my son has been given kudos for his skill level and knowledge by his peers and instructors from other schools, but he is still in the learning process of instructing and needs help from those above him. His maturity level has benefited immensely from studying Kenpo, but there are still things he can learn about the real-world applications and uses for the art that only time & wisdom can give.
    Y’alls comments about safety and liability are things that I need to speak with the instructor/owner about for our own sake. We enjoy the art and the folks that we meet at the different tournaments and such and do not want to lose that because of indifference from someone in a position of responsibility.

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    Default Re: Who Instructs?

    Ma'm, bottom line, it is your friends school and his responsibility, and he needs to be there to take care of his business. And his first priority has to be his students and the classes. Period.

    If your friendship is that strong, I'd take the concerns you have shared with us and talk to him. Let him know, as a friend, that his business is suffering because of his inatention.

    As Rob said earlier, don't go talking to others about this. Let them go to the instructor as well. Usually, when something like this falls apart, there is a lot of blame and hard feelings, and you don't need that.

    If worse comes to worse, there are bound to be other schools in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Your son may have to start over, but he'd probably advance pretty quickly. And it is a good thing to get more than one take on the system.

    Hope things work out for you.

    Dan C
    There are things that are worth knowing for their own sake, worth finding for the pure joy of discovery.

  20. #20
    SifuDangeRuss is offline
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    Smile Re: Who Instructs?

    KrazyKenpoMama~san...

    I hate it when my well-thought out posts end up in '
    cyber-la-la-land!'

    I tend to agree with Danial~san here. A dialogue with Mr Teacher is paramount. You echoed my concern over keepin' junior challenged.

    I can relate on a very intimate level here, as the guy who owned my home school when I was your son's age suffered a very tragic and unexpected loss of his wife. He blamed the time he spent at the school, for taking him away from her and not seeing what was happening. So another instructor and I ended up running the school on his behalf for quite some time, gratas. Eventually it became clear that he wasn't going to take the reins back, and my counterpart ended up purchasing the school and I moved up north. It was indeed a learning experience for me on many levels, but perhaps not the ideal one.

    Do speak to the owner/operator and get a commitment from him as to what his plans and expectations are for your son and the school in general. If it's reaching a point where junior's favorite activity is becoming a...'job', then it will rapidly become less fun.

    If I can offer any insite or advise, please don't hesitate to write me, or even to have your son write me. I've walked the path he's on.

    Russ
    NEW and IMPROVED Non-Chunky Version!

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