Knowing the Material

Seeing students improve makes my day!

There’s this one student that I’ve been working with over the past couple of months. Granted, I’m not the only one who’s worked with him, so I know my part of helping him improve is probably very small. However, I have seen the little shifts that occurred while I’ve worked with him, so I think I have contributed something.

The first time was, well, a disaster. This student withdraws into himself sometimes, and this was one of those cases; he completely tuned me out. The more I tried to help him, the more stressed he became. The more stressed he became, the worse he did. I was making the situation worse.

So I asked my Mentor-Instructor about it. He explained about the stress that this student is under to get everything right. He suggested breaking the form into little chunks, making it more manageable and giving success quicker.

I tried that, but it didn’t work well at first. The student kept trying to go-go-go, even when I tried to halt and reset the form.  

Then I stopped, and knelt so that our eyes were at the same level.

“I think that you’re being too hard on yourself,” I told him. “I think that you’re wanting to get it all right that you’re going so fast – but when you do that, you make more mistakes. I think that if you slow down, calm down, you will do better. Can you slow down?”

He nodded, eyes still glued to the floor.

So we tried it again. When he began to speed along, I’d quietly remind him, “Slowly…”

He did do better – and, more importantly for me, I was able to discover specific areas where he was struggling.

The first area was that he struggled with left and right. He had the correct movement, but he’d use the incorrect hand. So at the specific spots where he had troubles, I would pause before continuing. At first, I would touch the hand he would use, telling him that this was the hand. After a bit, though, I started asking him. “Which hand are you going to use?” Then I’d wait until he answered (correctly!) before having him proceed to the next moment. When I did this, he would proceed correctly.

So I told him that: “You know this! When you think about it, you do it right! It’s just when you hurry that you forget. So remember to think about it, okay?”

He nodded; slowly, he became better at thinking before moving.  

The second struggling area was that I realized he was not aware of his feet. His feet would just move forward of their own accord to support his body. Because of this, he would often take multiple steps when only one was called for, and that made the form awkward.  

So I told him to specifically focus on his feet as we covered some of the trouble areas. There was one point where I told him to focus on planting his feet solidly down, to not move them. As we continued working on the form, I would sometimes just comment, “Focus on your feet…” and he would immediately stop the forward movement.

This was not in one teaching session, but in multiple bits and pieces throughout the past couple of months. Each time, though, I saw more improvement in his ability. I also saw his gaze raise from the floor and his shoulders lift with pride.   

And, yesterday, I worked with him again. I reminded him that he knew it, he just had to keep his focus during the form. Then I saw one area where he was stepping incorrectly and we worked over that until he had it down.  

By the end of working with him, my heart was soaring. He had it! He really had the form down! He will still have trouble under pressure, but even then, he was doing MUCH better! And, better yet, HE knew that he knew it.

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