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DaveO 09-03-2002 01:10 PM

How serious a teacher are you?
 
Ola, Amigos!
(That's the extent of my Spanish.)
I have a general question I'd like to throw out to the group:
Many who post on this forum are Aikido instructors at one level or another, from Senseis to Sempais to kyu levels teaching beginners, etc. My question is, how serious are you about teaching? Do you show up for class and say "OK, gang, what do you want to learn today? OK, let's try that." Do you spend hours a few days before class studying material, writing and revising lesson plans, and rehearse a class until it shines?
When tasked to teach, is teaching secondary to your Dojo experience or primary?
In other words, how do you personally approach teaching Aikido?
Just a personal note, while I myself take teaching very seriously, I don't believe there is any right answer here. There are a great many teachers I've met with extremely loose attitudes towards instruction, and who are far, far better than I am, and am ever likely to be. :)
I look forward to your responses, this should prove an interesting conversation!
Dave

rachmass 09-03-2002 01:22 PM

Hi Dave,

good question! I have taught for many years as an assistant instructor at my home dojo. We have a pretty defined set of classes that we teach, when teaching a basics class (we work mainly on body movement, and sometimes on breaking down one specific technique). Typically I would come into class with an idea that I want to work on, but sometimes the class makeup is such that doing what I had planned would just not be appropriate. Some flexibility therefore is necessary.

In another couple of weeks I'll officially have my own dojo/club, and I am trying to figure out what kind of teaching plan I want to implement in terms of what to work on first, etc. Of course, this will also have to be flexible, depending on who shows up and what their ability is. Personally I think that teaching has to be fluid and sensitive to all that are involved in the class. Rigidity in teaching would just spell disaster.

All this said, I feel that the class layout is the teachers responsibility, as is the coherency of the flow of techniques.

just my $.02.

All the best,

Rachel

DaveO 09-03-2002 01:35 PM

Thanks, Rachel - Good luck on the new Dojo!

I've got a return question for you: I think I remember from past posts your new dojo will be fairly near your old one. When you open, will it be a purely solo endeavour - i.e., just you, or will any of your current sempais plan to 'commute' to help you with recruiting and building a student base? See, one day, I plan to have my own Dojo, and this is a nagging question for me - how to build one without the resources of a home Dojo?

:)

Dave

rachmass 09-03-2002 01:39 PM

Hi Dave,

Yes, my new club/dojo is about twenty minutes away from my home dojo. I have a very good relationship with the new sensei (our teacher moved across country to warmer climes), and he will come and train/teach on occassion. I don't teach weapons classes, and plan to send my students to him for their education in weapons work. I sincerely hope that the relationship is fruitful for both of us, and that it will be just as good for any students who wish to be part of a larger organization. There will also be a friend of mine who will be teaching occassionaly, and her home dojo is around 4 hours away. We will have a close relationship with that dojo as well. I hope that my (soon-to-be) students will have the love of traveling to seminars, and into the great wide world of aikido.

Best,

Rachel

MikeE 09-03-2002 01:42 PM

I was just discussing this with my assistant instructors the other day.

They usually come in with a good idea what they are going to teach, or look at my classes and expand upon what i am doing.

I myself, it depends. Sometimes, I come in with a clear idea of what I am going to do...only to have it change drastically by questions or the levels of students present.

I teach such a wide range of ranks that most of the time my plans go down the tubes, and I wind up going with the flow.

So I guess my answer is....

it depends.

Don_Modesto 09-03-2002 02:59 PM

Re: How serious a teacher are you?
 
Quote:

Dave Organ (DaveO) wrote:
1) ...how serious are you about teaching?

2) Do you show up for class and say "OK, gang, what do you want to learn today? OK, let's try that."

3) Do you spend hours a few days before class studying material, writing and revising lesson plans, and rehearse a class until it shines?

4) When tasked to teach, is teaching secondary to your Dojo experience or primary?

In other words, how do you personally approach teaching Aikido?

1) I am a teacher by profession (MA, School for International Training, Brattleboro, VT.) I bring teaching theory and experiences from the classroom to bear on lesson planning for the mat.

2) Never.

3) Always. And often end up trashing it to follow the students. The planned lesson is sine qua non to good teaching, but as one of the leading lights of my profession put it, "One learns to teach from learning". I take this to mean not only MY learning, but the learning I observe in my students. Consider it the shu-ha-ri of pedagogy.

4) When I began, it was a chance to see improvement in interested students. Predictably enough, I learn as much or more than they; indeed, working with my students regularly adds items to my own training agenda. I also indulge my own intersts a little in class to practice items on that above-mentioned agenda.

MaylandL 09-03-2002 08:20 PM

Quote:

Dave Organ (DaveO) wrote:
...how serious are you about teaching? Do you show up for class and say "OK, gang, what do you want to learn today? OK, let's try that." Do you spend hours a few days before class studying material, writing and revising lesson plans, and rehearse a class until it shines?

When tasked to teach, is teaching secondary to your Dojo experience or primary?

...

Hello Dave

First of all thank you for the info about teaching and lesson plans. Interesting stuff :)

I take my teaching responsibilities very seriously because sensei has entrusted me assisting him. My teaching responsibilities ranks equally with my responsibility to maintain my training and continully improve.

As for formal and documented lesson plans - no but Sensei does want me to work on certain basic techniques like centre/posture, movements and basic techniques. Maybe in the future I might just map out what we should be teaching and have a talk to Sensei about that so that all of the assistant instructors are teaching what sensei wants to focus on.

I have a basic theme to illustrate and allow students train in the above for each class that Sensei has asked me to take on his behalf. For example, last night was a class on taking balance and sensing/feeling where Uke's balance was the weakest and that to get that feeling you had to be relaxed and centred.

As for saying to students what do you want to do - no. My preference is to provide some structure to the training so that students can see the application of aikido principles in the exercises and techniques. HAving said that, I agree that you need some flexibility. You may need to change the lesson plan if students are struggling with something that you've asked them to do. There may be another way or technique that achieves the same end but without the difficulties.

To Ms Rachel Massey:

All the best for your dojo and I look forwad to your new website. I think that fostering close relationships with other dojos is extremely beneficial. There's the support network, the exchange of ideas and variety in training.

We have regular friendship seminars and we invite senseis from other clubs to take classes. Also Sensei encourages visitors to train with us and consequently we dont have mat fees for visitors.

All the best for training all :)

Kevin Leavitt 09-03-2002 08:35 PM

How serious are you about learning?

That is the question I would ask.

As a student, not as a teacher, I figured out that I alone was responsible for my own growth and destiny.

I have done the "have faith in sensei and he will impart everything you need to know" mentality. Didn't work for me.

I know study full time at one dojo, where I pay dues and look at the head instructor as my sensei for promotions and over all development.

I also, study with two other aikido dojos when time permits, and a third karate dojo. You can call the others sempai if you may.

Plus, I do a early morning trainng workout on my own.

I decided that it was better for me to stop sitting around for two or three classes a week and take responsibility for my own training in a sense.

I listen attentively in class to the instructor, and ask questions when appropriate and seek individual instruction on things I need help on.

So, I think the student has a big responsibility to make sure the teacher is teaching the right stuff as well!

jimvance 09-04-2002 12:21 PM

Quote:

Don J. Modesto wrote:
The planned lesson is sine qua non to good teaching, but as one of the leading lights of my profession put it, "One learns to teach from learning". I take this to mean not only MY learning, but the learning I observe in my students. Consider it the shu-ha-ri of pedagogy.

Could you elaborate on this a bit, and cite the "leading light". I would be interested in any published works you think would be of interesting note. Feel free to email me the info if you don't think it is important to this thread. Thanks.

Jim Vance

Don_Modesto 09-04-2002 02:21 PM

Quote:

Jim Vance (jimvance) wrote:
1) Could you elaborate on this a bit, and

2) cite the "leading light".

Just lost the detailed answer to this I spent 20 minutes on to some system problem. This answer will be shorter. Sorry.

1) Not sure on just what you'd like me to elaborate. In precis if the item on your lesson plan following IKKYO is NIKYO and the students can't do IKKYO right, forget NIKYO and delve more deeply into IKKYO.

2) It's an irascible Sourbonne-educated Egyptian named Caleb Gattegno. His stuff is pretty hard to get into. I'd recommend reading one of his cheerleaders, Earl Stevick. Both are available in my library, maybe yours, too. Failing that, there's interlibrary loan. Gattegno's stuff is "out of print" or "hard to find" at Amazon, though.

DaveO 09-04-2002 03:45 PM

Quote:

Don J. Modesto (Don_Modesto) wrote:
2) It's an irascible Sourbonne-educated Egyptian named Caleb Gattegno. His stuff is pretty hard to get into. I'd recommend reading one of his cheerleaders, Earl Stevick. Both are available in my library, maybe yours, too. Failing that, there's interlibrary loan. Gattegno's stuff is "out of print" or "hard to find" at Amazon, though.

If there's anyone who doubts that teaching is an art form, A), they haven't taught for very long and B) they haven't heard of masters like Caleb Gattegno. No question; Gattegno's work is truly brilliant. I know very little of him other than by name and a general idea of his 'Silent Way' technique, but clearly, as Picasso was to painting and Mozart to music, so Caleb Gattegno to the art of teaching.

And therein lies a potential problem, I think. Actually, not a problem, more of a consideration: Teaching is an art, and like all arts, it is based around a solid knowledge and understanding of learned technique - the science of the art, so to speak. Like music, painting or dance, a student of the art must first learn the techniques that form the framework on which to hang the creativity and personal styling that we call 'art'.

To use an analogy; if I wanted to be a violin maestro like Itzhak Perlman, I'd first have to spend years - decades - learning the basic skills: scales, music theory, studying classical music and its composers, playing, playing, playing. Somewhere along the way, Art would creep in; at some recital or concert, or in the innumerable hours of practice, I would unconciously begin playing MY way. The music would be Mozart or Vivaldi, but it would by my rendition, my music; not someone else's. Therefore, I'd never achieve my goal of playing like the maestro Itzhak Perlman, instead, I'd ultimately learn to play like the maestro Dave - all that assuming I had the gift; the spark to be a musical master which, to my eternal regret, I don't.

Anyway, back to the concern: ( :) )

The Silent Way, and much of Gattegno's work is brilliant, but if one is to attempt teaching in such a fashion, in my opinion, one would be best served by learning the typical, accepted techniques first - the lesson plan and textbook. Once a teacher has progressed to the point where he realizes he's making art in the classroom (for lack of a better term), and is truly comfortable in that role, then he is free (I would almost say 'obligated') to explore the creative reaches of the art of teaching.

Wow, I'm waxing lyrical, aren't I? :rolleyes:

Anyway, to refresh myself, I looked Gattegno up on the web, and was pleased to discover the following in a short bio:
Quote:

Gattegno dismissed traditional teaching as being too concerned with filling memories rather than educating students'awareness, which, he declared, is the only thing in us that is educable.
Lol - it's nice to see that something I've always believed and kind of accept as common sense (and had the hardest time pounding into my Methods Of Instruction students, and fellow teachers, for that matter) is backed up by one of the best in the business. I'm not nearly as capable of explaining it as Gattegno (Hell, I'm not even in the same ballpark), but the basis for all my instruction has been conceptual rather than empirical; that is, instead of teaching a skill or fact directly, I teach the concepts governing that skill or fact. Then, once I do actually teach it (or more often, the students realize it for themselves), they have it understood, not merely memorized.

Anyway, thanks for reading this blather and Don: Thanks for referring to Gattegno and Stevick; fascinating study!

Dave

Choku Tsuki 09-04-2002 09:15 PM

from the bool "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones",
 
a collection of Zen and Pre-Zen writings:
Quote:

"Studying the truth speculatively is useful as a way of collecting preaching material. But remember that unless you meditate constantly your light will go out."

--Gasan, to a student leaving after a few years of study
#52 of 101 Zen Stories

--Chuck

Don_Modesto 09-05-2002 02:12 PM

Quote:

Dave Organ (DaveO) wrote:
....if one is to attempt teaching in such a fashion, in my opinion, one would be best served by learning the typical, accepted techniques first - the lesson plan and textbook. Once a teacher has progressed to the point where he realizes he's making art in the classroom (for lack of a better term), and is truly comfortable in that role, then he is free (I would almost say 'obligated') to explore the creative reaches of the art of teaching.

Very nicely put. I agree.

Jermaine Alley 09-10-2002 12:14 PM

Teahcing
 
DaveO,

Great question....I am a shodan in aikido and have been teaching for about a year. Well, a year, but maybe once or twice a month.

I like to review the history and terminology aspect of our curriculum prior to getting up in front of the class. When i was going through my kyu levels, i was frustrated at the fact that i had such a limited knowledge of aikido history as well as japanese martial history. I might throw out one or two terms so as to get the students into wanting to learn more.

As for an actual lesson plan...I dont really use one. Our Shihan has designed a monthly topic a while ago to focus our instructors and to sort of keep us on line so that kyus are prepared for testing. I think that is a really great idea. I try to stick to that as much as possible.

Now and then it might be a topic that i might not be all that versed, so then i have to borrow some of the knowledge of other sensei's that are present.

I thought that i read somewhere that O'sensei did not use a teaching plan at all. And when it came to him teaching techniques, he would just call up an Uke and leave to the uke to attack any way that he wanted. When i initially found that out, I tried to do is several times. But when i messed up several times, i elected back tothe "select an uke and tell him how to attack method"...Now that i am thinking about it more and more, i think that I am going to go back to having my uke attack the way that he wants. That approach illicits a number of different responses that aremore instinctual than prepared.

I hope that this wasn't too long.

I think that you have helped me think up another good thread question....

thanks again..

jermaine

henry brown 09-11-2002 02:15 PM

I usually try for a progression of techniques within some constant value when I am teaching. That is, I will decide that on some particular class I am going to work on ikkyo - - and I will start with basic attacks (shomen-uchi or kata tori... etc) and move to more elaborate ones as the class goes on,depending on what level the students are capable of. Alternatively, sometimes the theme is the attack, and I will try to teach multiple defenses all against the same attack. Rarely I might concentrate on something else, like a particular tai-sabaki, or breathing, posture etc for the class, with fairly random techniques selected out.

I guess my general aim is for students to see the connections and flow between techniques, and eventually not think too much about anything specific.

Reg Robinson 04-03-2005 07:57 PM

Re: How serious a teacher are you?
 
Hi Dave,
At the risk of straying off topic which is not my intention here are my thoughts on this. Serious students & teachers have at least one thing in common, they go through life learning & teaching at the same time. Hopefully we learn through our successes, but most often it's thru hard knocks & it is this that can give us opportunities to teach. People notice how you deal with negative situations, or any situation that makes you stand out. When I look back I remember those unofficial teachers that taught me by example, How they treated their spouse, children, the people they worked with. The serious student & teacher for me are the ones whom I continue to learn from when we are off the mat & away from the Dojo.
Thank you, Reg.

eyrie 04-04-2005 06:42 PM

Re: How serious a teacher are you?
 
If you are at all "serious" about teaching, I would highly recommend reading Lawrence Kane's excellent book on "Martial Arts Instruction - Applying Educational Theory and Communication Techniques in the Dojo".

Melissa Fischer 04-08-2005 12:41 AM

Re: How serious a teacher are you?
 
At our dojo we are lucky enough to have teacher's training classes which are run by Bruce Bookman sensei and which meet once a month for 2 hour sessions. These classes are open to 1st kyu and up with an occasional 2nd kyu by invitation. It's like a kenshusei program (what I understand of that, at least) in that it is a committment to teaching and training and not at all a casual, drop in thing.

Each of us teachs a handful of techniques to the other members of the class while sensei watches and comments. Then the group analizes what could have been better in terms of execution of the technique or transmission of the info or anything else. It's a great way to develope a critical eye. It can be brutal and more than one teacher has dropped out. But it's a terrific honor and everyone is really supportive and energetic. We all look forward to the 1st Saturday in the month. Plus, there's usually a special seminar (bokken, jo, randori...) on the same day so we get to feel like uchi deshi for a day before going home to the spouse and kids or whatever.

Also, as part of the program, we sign up to teach a beginners' class where sensei watches while we teach the whole thing. This is good because picking and teaching techniques to an all yudansha class in not the same as teaching an average class in our dojo.

On another note, we have a large kids' program and those teachers start out as assistants and work into having their own classes over time.

Anyway, I am a life long teacher and so I take my teaching very seriously. Except I love it so I'm not always that serious when teaching, especially the kiddos!

Kinda long winded, sorry,

Melissa

www.tenzanaikido.com

ruthmc 04-08-2005 02:22 AM

Re: How serious a teacher are you?
 
Quote:

Dave Organ wrote:
In other words, how do you personally approach teaching Aikido?

When I'm teaching I''m teaching, when I'm uke I'm uke, when I'm tori I'm tori. I find it best to concentrate on what I'm doing at the time, thereby giving a good proportion of my attention to it. I hope this approach enables me to be a serious teacher, uke or tori :)

If I wish to progress through the dan ranks, I also have to make a serious commitment to teaching in some way, as this will be considered by my sensei when he's deciding when I'm ready to test.

While I'm teaching, I try to find a way to inspire each student in this art of Aikido, encouraging them to enjoy their training and to progress at the highest level they are capable of. When my students are enjoying themselves and doing well, I have succeeded :)

Ruth

ian 04-08-2005 04:24 AM

Re: How serious a teacher are you?
 
I think effective teaching is all about understanding the needs of your students. I think generally the class is very relaxed, but sometimes it becomes too relaxed and I have to make it a bit more serious. The aim is to produce effective and efficient teaching - too serious and people are tense, too relaxed and people don't train.

darin 04-08-2005 09:49 AM

Re: How serious a teacher are you?
 
Quote:

Rachel Massey wrote:
Hi Dave,

good question! I have taught for many years as an assistant instructor at my home dojo. We have a pretty defined set of classes that we teach, when teaching a basics class (we work mainly on body movement, and sometimes on breaking down one specific technique). Typically I would come into class with an idea that I want to work on, but sometimes the class makeup is such that doing what I had planned would just not be appropriate. Some flexibility therefore is necessary.

In another couple of weeks I'll officially have my own dojo/club, and I am trying to figure out what kind of teaching plan I want to implement in terms of what to work on first, etc. Of course, this will also have to be flexible, depending on who shows up and what their ability is. Personally I think that teaching has to be fluid and sensitive to all that are involved in the class. Rigidity in teaching would just spell disaster.

All this said, I feel that the class layout is the teachers responsibility, as is the coherency of the flow of techniques.

just my $.02.

All the best,

Rachel

Hi Rachel,

My students follow a set curricullum where they learn a set of techniques required for their next grading. If they don't have a partner of the same level they can train with someone who is a grade or two higher and work of that person's list of required techniques.

My class starts with a bow in then warm ups followed by taisabaki, ukemi and shikko. From there my students form groups and go through their technique lists. After an hour or so we do randori, weapons then bow out.

My students like it. Sometimes I change things around for a bit of variety.

Basically the class runs itself so I don't have to come to the dojo thinking about what to teach.

Good luck!

Darin

senshincenter 04-08-2005 12:14 PM

Re: How serious a teacher are you?
 
I consider teaching to be part of the overall technology of the self that is Aikido/Budo. That is to say, I do not see it as me coming to the study of Aikido (both the mundane and the deeper levels) from the outside or from any sort of detached point of view. Teaching for me is simply the flip-side of one's commitment to the sensei-deshi relationship. For me, that relationship is central to Aikido practice because it is only via people that we transform ourselves (as opposed to the idea of techniques themselves having transformative power, etc.). When one is teacher, one comes to see the state of their being through the requirements of compassion and wisdom. Teaching then, as much as it is about technical proficiency, is about the cultivation of our capacity for sacrifice - which elsewhere I have defined as love. For me then, a lot goes into developing a sound pedagogy - no effort or time can be seen as "extra" or "unneeded." For me, as deshi should seek to fully invest themselves in being a deshi, so too should teachers when it comes to being a teacher.

David Humm 04-08-2005 12:31 PM

Re: How serious a teacher are you?
 
I commenced teaching when in the Armed Forces; I was taught Methods of Instruction within my unit and advanced MOI at the school of Infantry, Warminster.

I apply that methodology to my aikido classes and find it works perfectly,

1) I plan ahead - themes and subject of classes
2) I advertise in advance planned classes
3) I prepare and rehearse phases of a class
4) Always include at least 1 Question and Answer period
5) Always test (in one form or another) students to ensure they've assimilated the core of the class theme.
6) Always include some form of revision period the content of which may be bits from several previous classes
7) The class will include theory and practical application
8) I join in and take plenty of ukemi
9) I produce handouts for particular lessons which might include new terminology or techniques
10) Be enthusiastic, Supportive and Critical when required

I deliver my classes using the following method

a) Explain (what is to be done and why)
b) Demonstrate (How it is done and again why)
c) Imitate (For those who need to, have them imitate my actions until they have the mechanics)
d) Practice (free practice of the techniques)

E.D.I.P

>>Edit.

I'll also add that although part of a Hombu Dojo recognised organisation, I don't teach specifically a "grading orientated" class, everyone regardless of grade or ability does the same set of techniques, we look to expand a student's knowledge in a very broad way. Some of my newer students will be taking 6th and 5th kyu later this year yet, their technical ability will be beyond that grade in some areas - especially ukemi

Regards

Hagen Seibert 04-08-2005 01:35 PM

Re: How serious a teacher are you?
 
I believe, being serious as a teacher means:
to teach what the students need to learn,
and not what you create in your mind.
Thus, I usually do not prepare a complete, elaborated training session,
but go there basically unprepared, just one thing to start with (which should follow a curriculum), and then see what they do, and then see what they need. I found I get the best ideas for the training program this way, the highest motivation, and I feel Im the most serious teacher to my students this way.
Because imagination is always short to reality.
Because I serve their needs, and not my visions.

senshincenter 04-08-2005 02:46 PM

Re: How serious a teacher are you?
 
Quote:

Hagen Seibert wrote:
I believe, being serious as a teacher means:
to teach what the students need to learn,
and not what you create in your mind.
Thus, I usually do not prepare a complete, elaborated training session,
but go there basically unprepared, just one thing to start with (which should follow a curriculum), and then see what they do, and then see what they need. I found I get the best ideas for the training program this way, the highest motivation, and I feel Im the most serious teacher to my students this way.
Because imagination is always short to reality.
Because I serve their needs, and not my visions.

I think I can get what you are saying: One needs to tailor one's lessons or teaching models to the needs of the students. Standard upaya. However, while such a position may be true, it is not necessarily inevitable that a lesson plan means that the needs of the students are being neglected at the cost of some model being fulfilled. After all, one can plan a lesson that is very much derived from and in accordance with the needs of one's students. In addition, one's teaching model can itself be derived from a set of core basics and/or principles that every student should have (i.e. that every student needs). Moreover, as a teacher, one can and should opt to adapt or modify (even reject) any lesson once commenced, should it prove to be mis-matched to the students and their needs at hand. So, things like a lesson plan and/or a teaching model have a lot of room in them for making sure that the needs of the particular students at hand are being addressed.

To take this thread a little bit more in one direction, since I don't think anyone is actually going to post, "You know, I'm a very lazy teacher, I don't at all take the responsibility seriously," maybe we can raise the issue of what is needed - what are the student's needs that we are supposed to take seriously? As I'm seeing it now, in the unsaid of this thread, most folks seem to be talking about forms (i.e. the need of students to acquire forms). But these needs are really the needs of the institution - which survives via a transmission of constructs it has come to identify itself through. So we can and should ask, are there not other needs? For example, what of the need to gain spontaneity? How seriously do we as teachers take on the addressing of this need in our deshi? Or, the need of spiritual maturity - how seriously do we as teachers take on the addressing of this need in our deshi? Do we have lesson plans for such things? Do we have models and/or sound pedagogy or techniques for transmission concerning these needs? Etc.?

In my own experience, at every dojo that I have ever trained at as a deshi, no teacher there took these two suggested needs (i.e. spontaneity and spiritual maturity) seriously - at least not in the way "serious attention" is being suggested here (i.e. time, effort, direction, calculation, planning, self-reflection, etc.).

Just thinking out loud...

dmv


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