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I'm a student teacher in Karate. I try to teach younger students, but they don't take me seriously as an instructor. I've tried countless of times to get them to listen to me, but they don't. I've also spoken to my instructor about it and when he tried to get them to listen, they would for about a week then it's like they threw it all in the trash. What do I do to fix it?

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    Your experience is quite common. First answer some questions. How young are these students? How old are you? How many students? Do you teach the entire class? Are there other teachers in the class teaching at the same time? Oh, and what is your rank? Dec 24, 2022 at 0:47
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    I second Steve's request. There are many possible factors and if we want to address your specific problem, we need to know a bit more. Dec 24, 2022 at 14:54
  • You may want to take a look at this Feb 27, 2023 at 13:08

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It is common to have this issue with kids. As teachers we are so focused on helping the kids, keeping the parents happy, trying to pass on the incredible art we learned that we forget how to be kids!

Preamble: Don't use any of this to punish the kids use these rules in the spirit of creating a community accepting of different learning styles.

  1. Announce these rules at the beginning of class and tell each new student when they join
  2. Start every class leading the kids in jogging in a line around the room. Not racing, jogging. Everyone will subconsciously move toward group participation.
  3. When kids stop paying attention and start playing ask them to step out of the "focus area". Tell them it's OK if they need to rest but you need enough mat space for those who want to participate to safely participate.
  4. Focus on the kids whose attention you think you have. At different times different kids learn better on the side lines. Maybe they aren't ready for the intensive focused attention required for "adult like" training at that moment.
  5. Use games that built around the basic skills. Jumping games are good. You'd be amazed at how focused they get on winning the game and you can referee (Keeping your focus on fairness and fun!) so that the techniques they use in the game are high quality.
  6. Do an age appropriate "impressive demonstration". My wife and I were shocked when after 3 years of teaching kids classes we decided to have a demo day. After the kids did their demos we did something fairly simple just so the parents would have an idea of who we were. The kids came back and said "Wow! We didn't know you guys were that good!". They were more respectful after that.
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Kids have a short attention span. So keeps things short and sweet and to the point. Teach them only one or two concepts per class, since they won't remember more than that.

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Younger kids typically are attracted to the spectacular, the 'cool', the heroic.

With this in mind, you could try:

  1. Introduce each class by 'selling' them an impressive technique or sequence of techniques which rely on the very basics you need to teach them. You are doing this to gain their attention so they pay attention to the less exciting things they need to learn. Promise them that if they pay attention, that by the end of the class they will have come a step closer to being able to do the special thing you've shown them. Paint them a picture of how the technique might be employed by a hero/superhero to defeat a villain. Explain why a real hero needs such a technique in his or her arsenal (of course reminding them that no-one should ever use such a technique unless absolutely necessary).

  2. Now, explain to them that no-one learns to execute such technique without learning a series of special steps first. Explain that even Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan (if kids still know these names), Batman, Deadpool... you get the picture all spent time and effort learning the fundamentals before they could lean to do the really cool stuff. Let them know that they too can learn to do amazing things if they are smart enough to practice the things they need to practice; that what separates the heroes from the zeros is often dedication and determination; and that they are smart enough to know that they need to learn to walk before they can run.

  3. Now. Break down your 'amazing' technique or sequence into the elements of the technique/sequence. Show them how the basic technique relates to the development of the 'special' technique.

  4. Start by teaching them the first step. You will hopefully now have their attention.

  5. Move around the class, congratulating each student on whatever small progress they have (or haven't) been able to make. Remind them of their goal. Recognise their effort.

  6. Return to the front of the class and comment on all the ways you've been impressed by them. Express your confidence that they are moving towards their goal. Demonstrate how they can make their basic/s even better. Relate it back again to the special technique/s.

  7. Follow this pattern throughout the lesson (Demonstration/encouragement/refinement/goal).

  8. When concluding a session, remind them of:

    a) what their goal was,

    b) of how the things they have learned in pursuit of their goal,

    c) what to practice before the next lesson, and

    d) what they will be learning in the next lesson.

This process is summarised more succinctly by Anderson, N.J. (2021), Principles for Lesson Planning. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118784235.eelt1003:

The three principles [of lesson planning] are:

(a) Initiating the lesson planning process by articulating a clear learning outcome (LO);

(b) Designing learning opportunities that lead to accomplishing the LO; and

(c) Including an appropriate formative assessment that provides tangible evidence of achievement of the LO.

With kids, you have to keep reminding them of how their efforts are working to an interesting, impressive goal. It's not a dissimilar problem from that faced by many math teachers. For a lot of kids, math is rendered boring because the teacher is unable to draw relevance between equations and real-life problem-solving. You need to demonstrate how the basic equations of martial arts fundamentals lead to the complex equations of martial arts 'mastery'.

All this is by way of demonstrating that a teacher is a performer. You task is not merely to possess knowledge, but to learn how to engage students so that you are able to impart the valuable lessons to want to share with them.

I have provided one technique here. I suggest that if you want to improve as a teacher, you research not only on martial arts forums, but on teaching forums and websites with talk more generally about the art of teaching performance.

The skill of teaching does not come with a particular belt. True, you have the benefit of having spent many hours with teachers during your development and you can learn from this; you can remind yourself of what your found most powerful and entertaining, and of those teachers which failed to engage you, and why, but no-one has likely yet taught you how to teach and you must take teaching as a distinct, highly demanding skill which will take you years to develop, just as it has taken you years to develop your fighting arsenal.

Good luck.

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My current Dojo has a program where belts purple and higher, who are also 13+ years of age can help to train white belts. We had a blue (recently received his green) belt doing it and I think he's around 14 or 15. No one took him seriously at first, but Grandmaster explained to us he was helping, and nobody's dared to let their guard down since. I think your instructor may be your best bet, explain to him that they still don't listen. NOTE: I'm not a member of this program, I'm a white belt. So I don't qualify.

If they STILL don't listen, you may have to take things into your own hands. Methods you can use are make everything look cooler than it is. I usually arrive at my dojo about 20 to 30 minutes early, which is when the younger kids are in there, and the green belt usually is keeping the kid's attention by making references to heroes (like another answer said may work) and saying "pow" every time they hit the bag (during one-on-one only, there's no human that can talk fast enough to compensate for the entire class!). This method works best with littler kids, if you try it on teens they'll probably just think you're lame/childish/some other insult.

Also, try to be actively instructing throughout the lesson, make it hard to not listen. That's the biggest way how you can keep anyone's attention. It's very hard to get distracted or not listen if the instructor is right there in front of you and actively showing everyone something. One example is again from my Dojo, and what they have people do, and they do this for everyone, is to have a dedicated time of each lesson where the instructor has everyone line up in neat rows and the instructor has everyone do the same move all at the same time. You can't not listen to this, because usually if you don't listen, you can be called out.

I hope this works. By the way, I have never actually instructed anyone before, these are all methods that I have actually seen and actually work.

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