January 3, 2023, Israel
Teaching is an art. Teaching cannot follow a set timeline or curriculum, if you want your students to succeed. It is not something you can put on Autopilot, it is more like landing in story weather; timing, precision, and skill is required. I always have a plan for my classes, but it is not until I see who shows up that day that I really begin to plan. I need to see who is there, what their level is, what they are capable of. I always need to adjust to the needs of the participants.
When I plan a seminar, I always enquire as to the level of the participants, but again, what I am told is not always what I see, fine tuning is required. In the past I would have a list of techniques that I wanted to cover, but that was rarely achieved because the students needed more time. I have learned not to plan too much, not to make a strict timetable, and not to be disappointed if I did not cover all that I had planned. It is better to learn fewer techniques well than many techniques poorly.
A key question that confronts teachers is whether to spend more time on the basics, or to move sooner to the more advanced techniques. For the teacher repeated the basics again and again can make life very dreary, and for the students the same is true. "Not that again!" A student comes to class and is hoping for something new and interesting. The same is true for seminar participants. "Not the Universal Block again!"
Teaching is a balancing art; we cannot just blindly follow a set curriculum. We need to balance the needs of the students with our educational goals. Perhaps we will cover less but the students will actually learn more. I have found that the more time we spend on the basics, the more we drill on the fundamentals, the faster the students will learn the more advanced techniques. So, if we spend, say, 10 hours on basics, and then 10 hours on advanced techniques, more complicated techniques, the result might be, a grade of 50 - 60. But if we spend 15 hours on basics and 5 hours of advanced techniques, the grade will be 80 -90. In other words, if we have a limited number of hours but we weigh more on the Basics, even the advanced tecniques will look better. A strong foundation translates into a greater ability to master the more advanced material.
I have seen this throughtout my life in every discipline. Those who were in a hurry to learn Talmud and move on...never mastered it. Those who labored on the foundations, were able to understand how to study, how to learn on their own. So that the second group continues studying to this day, while the "move ahead fast" group, no longer studies, they simply do not have the skills.
We need to focus on the basics, much more than the advanced techniques. Now the issue is we need to balance this with the needs of the students. These are not a captive audience; they can leave whenever they want to. We cannot be like the Japanese or Okinawan masters of old, our students are not that disciplined and if they are bored, they will leave and find something more exciting.
Thus, we need to balance that is best for the students, i.e. training in the basics, with what will keep them interested, i.e. something new and exciting. This is indeed a challenging balancing act, and it only comes with experience. Fortunate is the teacher who finds a patient and diligent student. Fortunate is the student who finds and appreciates a good instructor.
Moshe Katz, 7th dan Black Belt, Israeli Krav Maga. Certified by Wingate Institute. Member Black Belt hall of fame, USA and Europe.
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