Thursday, December 17, 2009

Teaching Children vs Teaching Adults

I begun my sports teaching career in 1996, when I got my green belt in Finland's Kokondo (Seirenkai, nowadays) karate. My first assignment was to be the assistant teacher for the children's beginners' class. I didn't know I was up for it but eventually I kinda started to enjoy it. When I got my 1. dan in 2000, I officially became a Sensei, and taught a group of karatekas from yellow to black belts. I continued teaching various groups in our dojo all the way until I ended my training at Kokondo in 2001. Every now and then I go back there to train with my old friends. Brings back good old memories :D

For the last two years I've had this habit to teach Acrobatic Body Control (ABC) for two different children's group at the end of the calendar year. The other group is the Finn-Aiki aikido club and the other is Akari aikido club. See pictures below.

13.12.09 Teaching ABC for Finn-Aiki aikido club's children. Photo by Pekka Sipilä (2009)

14.12.09 Teaching ABC for Akari aikido club's children. Photo by Kyösti (2009).

The children in both of the groups were somewhere between 7 to 14 year olds. As many of them were so young my initial attitude towards teaching children is fundamentally different compared to adults. Below I have listed my main ideology of how I approach a children's group as a sports teacher:

  • Children get bored after 45 seconds when I've introduced a technique that they should try out. Therefore, I have to be able to bring something new or deeper information after 40 seconds in order to keep their attention towards me.

  • I am nice if the children are nice towards me. If they are nice to me and they ask me to show some special move, I might do that if I feel that they've been hard working enough to deserve it. This way, the children learn to think that they get a prize if they perform well or follow my instructions as well as possible.

  • Usually, I start as a nice teacher but if they think that kindness is weakness and try to abuse my kindness, then I quickly turn the table around and become more strict teacher. Especially in Martial Arts, the Sensei has the highest authority, and in my opinion it should be understood fairly early in ones training; Even at fairly young age.

  • I emphasize to the children many times, that I have been training for many years in order to obtain my skills I have these days. Therefore, if they don't succeed immediately they shouldn't feel depressed because of that. I try to make them understand that training in general - especially in Martial Arts - can be a life-long path of constant development. Note! When the physical improvement starts to slowdown at a higher age, it usually is compensated with a faster rate of development regarding the mind and soul level awareness. This I usually communicate more to adults. For both groups the message is that everyone has the potential for constant development if one can think him/herself as a combination of body, mind and the soul.

  • Children's classes aim more for fun than for technical improvements. If they improve technique wise then that is just a bonus. If the class has older child students, then I might try to improve their technique as well. In the end, the balance between fun and technical advancement is based on the skill level of the children. Usually, the older children are able to grasp more detailed technical training. With the adults I usually try to find the balance between technical details and repetition. If the adult students learn fast, then more technical details and less repetition per movement. This way, in one class I can teach more various ABC techniques. Again, balance is what I always try to achieve in all my classes. Therefore, I don't plan the class ahead on a piece of paper. I allow everything to affect everything, even the substance of my each class. For the adults class fun is usually a feel-good bonus ;)


    I believe that it's more worthwhile for me to teach motivated and physically capable adults. Their body and mind are more receptive for what I want to give them as a teacher. Therefore, at the moment I teach mainly professional actors and performers. In addition (genuine) Martial Artists are excellent students. Usually they hold at least a rank of 1. dan in some of the Asian style Martial Arts.

    16.12.09 Teaching ABC for a group of actors, athletes or otherwise physically motivated persons (note the Dummy in the middle!) :D

    Regarding children, I feel that I learn more from them than they from me. Therefore, I usually teach a children's class 1-3 times per group per year. I'm interested to know how children are nowadays, and I feel that being exposed to them 1-3 times as a teacher is sufficient. Maybe in the future it might be interesting to teach the same group of children for a year, eg. once a month, in order to be able to see their progress, and find out whether my skills as a teacher have significant positive impact on their learning.
  • 1 comment:

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