Since January, every Tuesday I have taught an after school taekwondo class from 4:30 to 5:15 to a group of kids aged 8 and up at P.S 84. This was a very interesting experience for me. Previously, I have helped teach taekwondo at my dojang, and I even helped teach this same class last year, but I was mainly helping out my friend who had organized the class before I began helping out. This time, even though my younger brother, Patrick, helped me for the first several weeks, I was essentially the only one in charge, which was both enlightening and frusturating.
The biggest impression that this whole experience gave me was that it is very hard to teach anything to a group of young children, especially if they don’t really want to listen. I see now why elementary school teachers deserve so much respect. I did of course learn more about the actual teaching aspect of teaching taekwondo as opposed to just the managing of small children. One of the biggest problems that I encountered was getting my students to listen to me and actually pay attention to what I was trying to teach them. This was mainly because I had several students who were very disruptive, and who really did not appear to want to be in my class. I eventually had to kick out most of those students because I could not get the other students, who actually wanted to learn, to pay attention around them.
I also learned the value of patience in teaching. Since I am a black belt, and I spend most of my time when I am practicing taekwondo around adults, many of which are black belts, I often forget how hard it can be to learn good form for kicks, especially if you are a young child and not particularly athletic. When I first began teaching my students kicks, some of them seemed to understand whant I wanted them to do instantly, but others had far more trouble, and I originally would try to have each student who was having trouble understand what I meant before I would have the next one come up to kick the pads. This proved innefective, and slow. Eventually, I learned to correct each student’s form itteratively, focuusing on a single aspect of their kick each time they came up to kick.
Not everything that I learned had to do with teaching, however. One of the most striking aspects of teaching this class was actually how poorly organized public schools are. It routinely took 15 minutes or more for the school to get the children to my class after I had set up the matts, and informed the school that I needed them to bring my students to class so that I could teach them. In addition, I asked every week for a class roster, both so I could learn everybody’s name and so that I could keep track of who was there for class each week, but I never got one, which was very frusturating. Similarly, the school did not actually have a room for me to hold class in, since the gym was in use. As a result, both years I have taught this class, I have had to teach in the hallway, which does not create an environment in which children are likely to pay attention. These two things by them selves are not actually much of a problem, however my class was not in truth a very hard thing to organize, and it was still not very well organized. In addition, from what I could tell, this was one of the better public schools in the city, which says a lot about the state of our city’s public schools overall.
Overall, I am very glad that I decided to teach taekwondo this spring, since it has been very educational for me. However, I am now also angry that our city’s public schools are so poorly organized.