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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Teacher... or, Keeper?

What makes someone a teacher and not just a keeper?  I know people who call themselves teachers, instructors, and coaches, but they are certainly not all equally capable in those positions.  It's not enough to watch over students and take them through their paces.  Teaching has to be more than that.

(this is hard to discuss without being insulting, I fear, so stop reading if you are the queasy type)

Imagine a pre-school classroom, filled with seven young children and one adult.  Clearly, we want the adult to be "in charge" and "responsible" but, simply being present in the room doesn't necessarily mean the adult is skilled as such.  For anything constructive to happen,
the adult has to take action to establish order, to provide direction, to encourage and to actually instruct and share new ideas.

If two children fight over a toy, a keeper will separate them and maybe decide who gets the toy, or even take it away from both of them.  A Teacher will help them figure out how to use words instead of fighting, how to share or take turns, how to play together instead of against eachother.  The Teacher will spend a lot more time on the issue, and will have to repeat that lesson over and over again until the students learn.  A keeper will establish discipline and punish accordingly so the students learn one thing quickly: how to obey.

In a martial arts classroom, anyone can explain a drill and count to ten a few times.  That doesn't make them an instructor.  Teaching is about adding value to a lesson, not just reading the instructions.  It's about finding yet another way to explain a technique so that everyone can understand it.  Teaching is always about the student, and never about the instructor.

Discipline is very important in martial arts, but it is not the only thing that matters.  Let's teach our students how to make good decisions and not just how to follow orders.  It will take a lot longer, but it will mean the difference between being a true Instructor, and not just someone who led a few drills.

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