An innocent gesture
I read this post over at Johndo and I couldn't help but feel a bit of a twinge when I read of one student's experience attending another dojo. One sentence in particular leapt out at me:
"...During some move, the instructor who was teaching laughed at her. Now this was completely innocent as the instructor was, I'm sure, reminiscing about a time when he first started and struggled with [the same thing] as we all do, but little seemingly harmless gestures can be disconcerting to new students. There were one or two times I can remember where [my teacher] chuckled and I felt inept at whatever we were going over at the time, even though I know that was not his intention. We as instructors need to remember to be concious of how unnerving it can be for someone new to a class and remember how awkward it was for some of us when we first started."
I twinge because I'm almost certain I've done that at one time or another, without giving it much thought. And there are probably a number of possible miscommunications happening between not only the sensei or dojo cho, but senior students as well, and those who are just starting along the path, without us every realizing it. The post served as a good reminder to approach not only my learning with a "beginner's mind" but also approach my teaching with a beginner's mind: to bare in my mind where the new student is coming from, to remember what it was like for me, to realize when to ease off the throttle, so to speak, and when to add more, and so on.
I'm finding that as I make the slow transition from student to teacher that, while I was taught the techniques, I was never really shown how to be a teacher (other than by example). I don't fault anyone for that, though; I doubt any of us were. We learned by example and trial and error; those students that liked the way we taught stayed, and those that didn't went somewhere else.
There seems to be an art to guiding a pupil along the path, a part of my own training that goes beyond just the techniques. I'm transitioning from internalization to transmission (or I may always be internalizing, but at least now I'm adding the transmission part). So, in a weird way, I myself am a white belt again!