The Teaching Times
I have been teaching for about two months now, in my very own class during the week, along with a fellow purple belt. Even though I had “taught” before as an assistant instructor (more like a glorified salesperson doing intro classes), and led a few women’s open mats, this was the first time in jiu jitsu that I had a bona fide class that I taught to real-paying members.
I have been surprised at how much pressure it is to teach in this context. There is way less pressure if you just assist with a class, as opposed to leading it.
As a trial class/assistant instructor, I was able to get the technique and cues from the head instructor. Often, I wouldn’t even be teaching the technique at all, but instead trying to get sometimes-distracted, sometimes-freaked trial class newbies to get comfortable with laying on top of strangers.
But here in Real Class, there is no one (except maybe my co-lead) to save me as I’m demonstrating a technique. All eyes are on me. And while I did fancy myself as a person who likes to be in the center of attention for some things (I’m vain I know)—I suddenly realized that I had a lot of responsibility to teach the right way.
If I didn’t care about how my delivery would be then, I had to care now.
If my delivery was jumbled, vague, or confusing, then I would quickly find my name being called in several different directions as people stared wide-eyed at me trying to figure out how to even start. If my delivery was clear, concise, or coherent, then I would see people settle into drilling a technique and making their own discoveries through deliberate practice.
Teaching with a co-instructor has been an enlightening experience as well. I am so used to working solo — professionally and personally — that it was difficult at first for me to adjust to the pace of collaboration. I’m used to being fast in making up my decisions and being spontaneous, but when you’re working with someone else, you have to slow down in order to be on the same page. This means a lot of discussion and pondering over what to teach, in what order, length, format, fashion, pedadogical technique or whatever the framework is.
Only after two months do I feel like we finally have a good format in place that balances the need for sparring and the need to learn new techniques (without throwing people to the wolves via the ecological approach).
Lastly, I have also gained a newfound appreciation for the process of acquiring knowledge. It’s one thing to teach someone something that you know, but it is quite another in jiu jitsu to teach someone something that you’ve only started to explore.
In the process of helping people troubleshoot their technique and clear up their questions, I’ve been allowed myself to engage in the process of problem-solving a lot more — something that I consider crucial to learning.
I spend more time focused on solutions and not dwelling on issues, and it’s helped me become more compassionate of myself whenever things don’t go the way that I plan when I’m training. I think having empathy of what others are going through has in turn given me the option to extend that empathy to myself, so that I may spend more time in understanding rather than in frustration.
I wasn’t so sure about teaching when I was first given the opportunity, but I’ve come to appreciate the role for what it is. It’s nice to be able to be a guide, no matter how small, in someone’s jiu jitsu journey.