Tag Archives: teaching

Happy Birthday to Me! 2017 Edition

Let’s cut straight to the chase: the earth revolved around the sun again, and I’m now another year older.  Woo.

Image result for happy birthday

I don’t know how old I am.  I was born in 1985, so do the math if you really care.

I’ve got absolutely nothing planned, because it’s a Monday.  My sister told me she’d physically assault me if I don’t come over for dinner, so there might be a small celebration tonight.  More likely she’ll just tease me, because my family is awesome and that’s how we roll.  Anyway, another year down, another year stronger.  Good job me. Continue reading

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

When I first learned about paradigm shifts, I was given the following example. Imagine you are on public transit, a bus or a subway. It’s half-full, and directly in front of you is a father with his two young children. The kids are running around, yelling and throwing things, causing a huge disturbance. The father, though, just sits there and lets them get away with it. Man, what a lousy parent.

Finally you have enough and confront the man. He looks surprised, as if just waking from a dream. “Sorry,” he says absently, corralling his kids. “We just came from the hospital. My wife is having open heart surgery and may not live beyond the hour. None of us knows what’s going to happen next.”


Just like that, your perspective shifts. You’re not looking at a bad parent; on the contrary, it’s a loving husband coming to gripes with potentially losing his mate. Neither are the kids little hellions; they’re simply young, dealing with grief and uncertainty in the only way they can. A moment ago, you were annoyed at the chaotic children running rampant around you, but now you see it in a completely different light.

This is a paradigm shift. It’s also a great example of why you shouldn’t judge other people until you know all the details. It’s easy to look like an idiot afterwards … like I did earlier this week. Continue reading

The (Second) Worst Part About Teaching

If you ask me my favourite part of teaching, I’d answer immediately: it’s the students. Seeing someone grow and evolve is incredibly rewarding. Whether it’s learning something new, overcoming a challenge or finally breaking through a plateau, all of these are amazing experiences, and I get to share all these accomplishments with them, at least in part.

Now, if you asked me my least favourite part about teaching, I’d answer just as immediately: it’s the students. I’m not even talking about the bad students necessarily, the ones that seemingly misbehave intentionally. Okay, yes, those are pretty bad, but even worse are the ones that never try. They show up but they clearly don’t care and they put in no effort. We’re both wasting our time, and it’s very hard to stay in the right teaching-mood, to give my best effort, when there are several such students in a class.

You can’t just yell at an eight-year-old, either, no matter how much you might want to.

So yes, the students are the worst part of my job, but a close second would be the parents. Continue reading

Having High Standards

My first year of university was a pretty big shock, and I mean that in every way. York University had approximately 50,000 students, staff and teachers on campus; my hometown has a population of 10,000. That town was about 90-95% white ethnicity, whereas Toronto has a huge sampling of ethnicities. In some classes I was the visible minority.

I was never uncomfortable, but it did take awhile to get used to seeing so many non-white people.

Of course, perhaps the biggest shock came in regards to marking. In high school, I got used to getting 90s on everything, often without really trying. I mean, I tried, but I didn’t go all out, six-hour study sessions or anything. That first year, I tried the same approach and promptly got a 70. Okay, time to take this more seriously. On my next assignment, I put in lots of hours of studying and planning and proofreading … and got a 78.

I promptly booked an appointment with my TA to discuss my mark. When we sat down, she looked at her marking book and grew puzzled. “Why are you upset?” she asked. “A 78 is really quite good.” It was apparently one of the higher marks in the class, but I didn’t care. So what? I don’t care what others are doing. I’m not competing against them.

I’m competing against myself, and there’s 22 marks I left on the table, marks I intend to get back. My standards are too high to settle for anything else. Continue reading

Working with People who have no Talent

I’m a martial arts instructor, and I mostly teach children. Teaching kids has a certain challenge built into it. In general, you can split them into two groups. I want to say ‘good kids’ and ‘bad kids,’ but that’s not really true. It’s really easy versus hard. Some kids are just plain easy to teach. They listen, they follow orders, they don’t goof off, that sort of thing. They might not necessarily be good at karate, but they are easy to teach.

Once in awhile you get one of those kids that’s not just easy to teach but good at everything they touch. Those kids just make you go ‘Wow.’

The flip side of the coin are the kids that are hard to teach. Some of these children are really, really good, but they often have some sort of quirk or behavioural issue that makes it tough to be an instructor. Some just want to talk to their friends, others like karate in general but hate the conditioning aspects required. Some, frankly, don’t listen half the time and require constant attention and motivation to do even the simplest tasks.

All of these are behavioural issues, and they make up the bulk of the hard-to-teach group. There’s one more possibility, though, and this may be the hardest of them all: a complete lack of talent. Continue reading

The Power of Praise

As a general rule, 90% of all emotional communication is either negative or filler. Negative is pretty self-explanatory. Such-and-such sucks, or this thing is terrible, or the weather is horrible. Sometimes it’s outright negativity, sometimes it’s passive aggressiveness, sometimes it’s just complaining. Negativity is everywhere.

Many people default to negativity because it makes you appear smarter. Other people are making mistakes, not you!

The other half, perhaps even more than half, is simply vacuous filler. It’s often disguised as positivity, but it’s really just filler. How was your day? “Good.” How are you? “I’m doing okay.” How was your weekend? “Can’t complain.” These are societal niceties, almost polite fictions. We say them just to keep conversation going without really adding anything to it, to avoid rocking the boat. If you really listen to people, it’s amazing how much is said without ever anything really being said.

The above make up roughly 90% of standard communication. The last 10%, the truly positive part, is much smaller but, holy crap, is it ever effective. Maybe it’s effective precisely because it’s smaller. Continue reading

Karate Legs

I don’t look like much. I mean that literally. I’m a tall but thin guy, perhaps very thin. I have little muscle and less body fat. Honestly, in some ways I look like the stereotypical nerd, someone pale and thin and skinny. Smart but not overly athletic. People at university thought very little of me … until someone asked if I could help carry in a couch.

I did, and I shocked most of them by carrying my end relatively easily. I helped rearrange the furniture, and at this point someone mentioned I’m a lot stronger than I look. I get this a lot. I look 150lbs soaking wet, and yet I weigh in between 170 and 180 lbs, depending on water retention. How am I hiding nearly 20 lbs of bodyweight?

There’s a hidden message here.

The answer is the legs, or more specifically, my karate legs. Continue reading

Days Blending Together

I’ve just finished a work marathon. Two co-workers have taken a trip to Europe, leaving us temporarily short-staffed. That’s fine, as we can handle it. It would be nice to have those extra bodies, but we made do. I didn’t expect any problems, and we had none, at least in terms of job performance. I didn’t realize, though, the mental toll it would inflict.

Pinky fingers, what are they good for?

I ended up covering every shift for one person, which meant I worked six days a week. I’m a martial arts instructor, so this means teaching classes. For the last two weeks, I have not only been at work every single day, but I have taught all but three classes in that time, and that’s just because two classes were happening at the same time and I couldn’t be in both places.

Seriously, for the last two weeks, I have seen every class and every student, and my mind has started blending everything together. Continue reading

On Being a Martial Arts Instructor

I am a martial arts instructor. That’s what I do. I teach martial arts, mostly to children but adults as well. I also lead fitness classes, leadership training and other related skills, but by and large, I am an instructor. As far as jobs go, this one’s pretty cool, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s great, it really is.

I spend most of my day moving around: punching, kicking, running, jumping. I’m not stuck behind a desk for hours at a time. I get to punch and kick things, and I show others how to punch and kick better. Some martial arts drills look like games, and that’s basically what they are, big fun games. The martial arts are fun, and teaching it is fun. In some ways I have the best job in the world.

Of course, the grass is always greener on the other side. There’s a lot to my job that people don’t see, and it isn’t always fun and games. Continue reading

Why I Value Fitness

If you asked me to name my life goals, I could give you a pretty decent list. There’s a lot I want to accomplish. If you asked me to narrow it down, say to a top five, I could do that fairly easily. I might quibble on what to include for the fifth spot, but the top three or so are pretty set. And if you pressed me even further, if you asked me to name just one life goal, if I could only accomplish one major life goal, I would still reply without hesitation.

Being shirtless. And holding an awesome bodyweight position.

It’s health fitness. No question. I desire, more than anything, to be the healthiest, fittest specimen I can be. This has been my quest for the last few years or so. I’m on a mission to master my body, to be both strong and flexible, agile and dynamic, powerful and graceful. If it’s possible for the human body to do something, I want to be able to do that. Continue reading