Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Gift of the Difficult Student

When you teach the martial arts (and I suppose, any subject), you end up with all sorts of students.

Take these two examples:

Student A is a natural - the physically gifted person who learns everything you have to offer easily, masters skills and concepts with little to no trouble.  This student requires no additional effort on your part - in fact, he may end up learning stuff you don't normally teach in order to keep them engaged in class.

Bobby had no trouble in the Little Ninjas class.
Student B is the exact opposite of Student A - a person who just isn't very coordinated, who struggles with the basic stuff, takes forever to master basic concepts and skills, and requires a lot of time and energy to teach.

I think we'd usually consider Student A as a star student and a joy to teach, and Student B as a burden that takes up far too much of your time.

It's fun to do something that comes easy to you.  Student A knows this, and that's why Student A needs no incentive to study.  Student A gets ego strokes, and rewarded not only with the pleasure of doing fun stuff, but is typically lauded for his ability.

Student B, on the other hand, gets delayed satisfaction, and has to work very hard to achieve.  Student B practices outside of class, Student B challenges the way things are taught by the very nature of the difficulty of learning the information.  Student B needs a lot of support and incentives to keep at it.  It's just not as fun for Student B as it is Student A.

The kicker is, poor Student B may never be "as good" at what you teach as Student A.  Yet he comes class after class, keeping at it until he can finally acquire the skills, even if he gets discouraged at times.

Student B is your star student.

I think, on some levels, all wise teachers know this, but we all have days of frustration when Student B just doesn't get it.

Student B, however, offers us a gift Student A will never give us - the gift of becoming better students of our arts ourselves.

You see, Student B is probably someone who learns differently than you know how to teach your art.  If you are a good teacher who cares about what you do, you end up figuring out new ways to present the material.  After all, you are teaching a skill, so there are many different ways to learn it, even if you don't initially know what they are.  You must think hard, research, and try out new approaches.

In that process, you end up learning more about your art than you did before!

We have a Student B, and I have learned more from this person in the month or so Student B has been in class about strike mechanics (I'm working on a geeky post about that as a result) and new ways to think about how my art works than I did in the year prior.  It's awesome.

Me when I discover something completely new about my art.

I am grateful we have a Student B, because it's helping me grow.

So don't look the gift of a Student B in mouth.  Student A is fun, but Student B is where the heart of your art really lies.

Got stories about how you worked with a Student B?  Were you one yourself?  I'd love to know!