Sunday, August 17, 2008

Begin the Beguine

The fall semester starts soon- students will be moving into their dorms this coming weekend.
This means my teaching schedule will be much busier in a couple of weeks.

This time of year, I'm always reminded of when I first started teaching.

Shortly after I expressed an interest in learning to teach, I was invited by the master to be his assistant in the university PE classes he taught.

When I started, pretty much all I did was lead the warmup. That, and watch him like a hawk.
At the time, I was not yet familiar with all his teaching techniques and stories.

Now, I know his, and have a few of my own.

I used to make lists. Lists of stories. Lists of what was covered in each class. Lists of things I wanted to remember about each topic. Lists of equipment needed for each particular class.

There is a rhythm to how he teaches.
Each class, and each lesson, has a rhythm, a flow.
Each series of classes has a plan.
There is an order underneath it all, a predictable, reliable order.
Almost a ritual, even.

It calms the mind, and focuses everyone on what we're doing. It creates a separation between the rest of the world- "before" and "after"- and "now."

From a student's perspective, everything starts with the warmup.

What I needed to learn is that it starts BEFORE the warmup.

My job, as the assistant, was to be ready for the class before I even got there, so that from the moment I walked into the room, the class would begin. Before I did or said anything- at least anything anyone would consider to BE "anything."

It took me a while to figure this out. Not a long while, but a few classes.

This was because from my perspective, still being a student myself, the class began when the MASTER arrived.

I had to learn to separate myself from the other students. To be an instructor. To command (not demand) respect.

At first, I didn't recognize the need to do this because I arrived with the master, not before him, so it was his presence that the students responded to. We would arrive together, he would greet the class, they would all focus on him, and then he would ask me to begin the warmup.

This routine was repeated in every class, whether it was the college class, or the youth class, or one of our other classes.

At some point- and I don't recall when it was- I was given my first "test."

It was the morning of one of the college classes.
I arrived early, as always, and waited for the master to arrive, so we could walk in together and begin the class.
Only he didn't.
When it was the time he usually arrived, he wasn't there.
It got later.
Closer to the time for the class to start.

Fortunately for me, I hate being late.

So I went into the class alone.
The students, already having been trained, by repetition, in how to begin the class, simply did what they always did. They waited in the usual place, gave the usual greeting, and, when he was still not there at the time the class started, did the warmup I led, no questions asked.

So far, so good.
But what if he doesn't show up at all???

While leading the warmup, I made a plan.
A simple plan, no doubt.
But a plan.
I knew what the class needed to work on that day. Had it on one of my lists, I'm sure.
So if he didn't arrive, I would simply go on with the class after the warmup, as if we planned it that way.
Even though we didn't.

HE did.

This was a test, I learned later, to see what I would do. To see if I would take the initiative. To see if I would simply sit and wait for him to get there, not starting the class, wasting everyone's time.

He arrived, precisely timed, as I ended the warmup. Walked in, took off his shades, and continued the class as if he had been there all along.

I passed this first test.

Not so much, the second one.

1 comment:

CoyoteFe said...

I like your posts. You have a quiet voice for a Leo.

Amd, I see you favor cliffhangers as well. :-)