Sunday, December 6, 2009

What I’ve Learned From Teaching Kids

Anybody can point out mistakes.

Anyone that’s ever been around kids would know that kids will very often point out someone else’s shortcomings, and seemingly many times they enjoy doing so. Very often in class, you’ll have a kid saying something like, “He’s got the wrong foot in front,” or “She forgot to kick before she turned,” and the list can go on for days. The funny part is that usually the kid pointing out the mistake is very likely making a mistake of their own, if not the very same mistake. As kids (and many adults) prove all the time, anyone can take the easy road by pointing out the mistakes of others. The hard part is seeing past those mistakes and finding the underlying strengths to build on.

Kids don’t care.

What I mean by that is that unlike most adults, kids generally don’t have that filter in their minds that keeps certain things to themselves. They can (and will) say things that are both rude and disrespectful. It’s usually not that they’re trying to do so; they’re usually thinking a lot of the same things that us adults think (but have the tact to keep them to ourselves) but simply don’t understand the importance and impact of what they say. As we well know, sometimes the mouth moves quicker than the mind, and that’s more so the case with kids. The statement “Kids say the darndest things” couldn’t ring more true.

They can be the ideal student.

The problem with teaching adults is that because of the experience we’ve gained by simply living life, we come to class with all sorts of preconceived beliefs, filters and thoughts. While not always necessarily a bad thing, they definitely affect how we react to certain things: how we think certain techniques will work; if we think certain martial arts customs are beneficial or a bunch of hogwash; how we treat our fellow students; if we quit at the first sign of difficulty or keep pressing on; how they respond to instructions. Kids, for the most part, don’t have these filters and are like open books, willing to try just about anything—especially if it seems like fun.

Having fun is of the utmost importance.

Ask an instructor what the number one reason they see students quit, and the lack of fun will typically be the first thing (or not far behind) that comes from their mouth. Above all the reason parents put their kids in martial arts, whether it’s self-defense, discipline (which, by the way, I believe it NOT the best reason for putting kids in martial arts…I’ll blog on that one later), physical fitness, etc., kids will not want to do it (or anything else for that matter) if they’re not having fun. As adults, many of us forget how important having fun should be. Of course, there are serious matters that have to be taken care of (bills, family, and the like), but just like we’re more likely to work in a job/career that we enjoy, so are kids more likely to attend and enjoy the martial arts.

I’m not perfect.

Not that I didn’t already know this, but in many kids’ eyes, the authority figure in front of them (school teacher, karate teacher, parent) is about as perfect as they come…right up until the point that said authority figure makes a mistake, and just like one of my previous points, the kids that I work with will gladly point out any of my and all of my shortcomings. Because of this and me being the quasi-meticulous person that I am, that keeps me on top of my game and be as close to perfection as I can—if not, I will surely be informed by the kids.

In actuality, teaching kids actually teaches me how to deal with adults.

If you think about it, all of these points revolve around how to deal with adults.

For example, think about how many divorces come about due to my first point.

On the second point, kids aren’t the only people who say exactly what they’re thinking; knowing how to handle it will make life a lot simpler.

Seeing things from others’ points of view is the simplest way to get around the mental roadblocks we all have.

We all need to remember to enjoy life and have fun every once in a while.

Granted nobody’s perfect, that kid in front of you thinks you are (the teacher MUST know everything since they’re the one teaching, right?). Because you know you’re not and they’re quick to point it out if you’re not, you must continue to refine yourself.

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