Learning to Teach

I coached beginner’s classes for years before I started learning how to give a one-on-one lesson.  I started with the children in my beginner’s classes – pulling one aside at a time for a few drills while another coach supervised bouting.  The first full half-hour private lesson I gave was a tremendous learning experience.

Near the beginning of the first lesson I gave, I gently touched my student to adjust her hip alignment… and she flinched.  It turns out that she’s ticklish!  I apologized and made a mental note.  I was hit by a number of realizations all at the same time:

  1. If my fencer had had some sort of trauma in her past, my correction could have turned out very badly.  I made a mental note and a verbal promise to always ask my student for permission before touching her.
  2. If I were a man, the whole interaction might have looked very different, both from her perspective and from that of an outside observer.
  3. She won’t tell me I can’t do something, and she won’t tell me that something I did was wrong.  Even on day one, my student has a great deal of trust in me.  After the initial surprise, she apologized to me (for being ticklish?) and told me I could do whatever I thought was best.  I’m now very conscious of the fact that I have to be the one who sets the boundaries in this relationship.  That’s a lot of responsibility!

But in addition to the responsibility, building a close working relationship with students is tremendously rewarding.  After just a month with that student I could already see real improvement in fundamentals like posture, hand before foot, arm position on the extension.  I can’t wait to see where the next season takes us!

What did you learn when you took your first lesson?  Or gave it?


4 thoughts on “Learning to Teach”

  1. I don’t remember my first lesson, but something I continue to learn is that I don’t have to get caught up on doing exactly what I’m told. I can fudge up a continuation, but as long as I continue through with it to the end I haven’t done anything wrong. I may have missed the target or done the wrong blade action, but as long as I don’t stop halfway through to reset it isn’t a fail. It helps me stay focused and determined to hit when things don’t go as planned.

    Good post!

  2. Great post. It’s been a long time since I gave (or took) my first lesson, but I continue to learn something new with every lesson I give. Some days I feel like I’m learning more than the student. Those are generally not good days…

  3. Gave my first (paid) private lesson this year and was amazed that it went so well. Apparently teaching as you were taught actually works reasonably well.

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