Build on What They Already Know
I already felt like I had two left feet in the salsa class. Exasperated, I asked my partner, who had already been there for a few months, “Am I the only one here not getting it, or is this just too difficult?” I was surprised when she said, “You know what, they never practice anything we have done before, it is always this new stuff. Just when we learn it, we move on to something else, and forget about it”. Ah-hah. We laughed about it, but it was so true. In their quest to make the classes interesting, they tried to do something new every week, but neglected to practice what was taught prior. The result: lack of confidence amongst the students as nothing ever stuck. Many quit in frustration, some, like myself, thinking “I will never be a good dancer”.
In order to build up your students’ confidence, build on what they already know. This is especially important when teaching children. You can still make the classes interesting. Try doing them from the left-handers stance. Try adding a kick that they don’t know onto a hand combination they know. Experiment with rapid commands. That way, their interest is held, but they also are gaining confidence in themselves. That is not to say never teach them new things. Just make sure you are spending enough time for review so they stick.
Build Them Up, Don’t Tear Them Down
I have studied many martial arts outside my own over the years, and have gained many insights through this experience. At one school in particular, I became frustrated, to say the least. Everytime I did something wrong, the instructor would loudly correct it, so the whole class could hear. I was not discriminated against, he did it with everyone there. Meanwhile, if we did something well, we never heard about it. He never praised anyone. The result: only a few of his students stayed; most like myself, moved on. At another school, an assistant got a bit upset when his poor instruction was not understood by myself and two other students. He said, “I’m going to show you one more time. If you don’t get it this time, 50 pushups.” I flatly refused, and stated, “Let’s talk to the sensei about this”. He backed down. I had a chat with the sensei about the incident. We did not see that assistant again. Apparently, other people complained about him as well.
We need to praise our students when they do something well. We all need recognition for our efforts, especially kids. Your recognition of their efforts means so much to them. Build on what they know and be generous with your praise, and before long you will have a large following of confident students with high self-esteem. See an earlier post, Motivating Children in Martial Arts for more ideas in this area.