Q: How do you balance the humility of a student with the confidence needed to teach?
My teacher asked me this question because he knows I often feel unqualified to teach. What I fear most is giving a student the wrong information. When teaching, you discover how well you think you know the material. You also discover the depths of what you don’t know. I’m learning that it’s acceptable to say, “I don’t know, but I will find out and get back to you.” Students will respect you for your honesty and effort to help them find answers.
As with everything, it takes practice to become a better teacher. It helps to train assistants because I’m now observing their teaching styles and experiments and sometimes they will tell me when they don’t feel confident. I reassure them that they have the knowledge to teach the basics, and then toss them into cold water, as my teacher does to me :)
Teaching at Chinese School Andover has been rewarding. I enjoy the freedom of creating my own curriculum and thinking of different drills to train the same skills. Despite the once-a-week frequency of classes, my students are picking up the material at a decent pace. I am so grateful for my assistants and they’re fun to work with. They have been extremely helpful and they seem to be developing an affinity for teaching. As one of them says, my classes are like Yin and Yang. My Sunday group is so quiet that sometimes they will be too shy to answer a question like, “Do you want to play a game?” In contrast, my Monday group likes to test their boundaries and my patience. They’re not bad kids, they’re just very eager to tell us what they know. They also have an abundance of energy after sitting in classrooms all day long.
For mental training, I gave my students homework assignments. Three out of 15 students completed the first assignment. To be fair, some of my students are very young and probably did not expect to have homework in a kung fu class. I made homework optional in hopes that they will think about the questions but not dread answering them.
It’s like Groundhog Day during stretching in every Monday class.
me: Keep your leg straight and reach for your toes.
students: This is EASY! It’s SO easy!
me: Bring your elbow to your toes.
students: That’s hard!
The two best parts about teaching are seeing the kids practice with focus and intensity in their eyes, and when they’re smiling because they’re happy to be there.
me: What’s a martial artist?
student: An artist… who draws marshmallows!