Photographer: Michael Neel (Flickr)
Taking taekwondo classes over the past few months has put me firmly back into the role of a learner. As with any subject, I’m discovering that some aspects are more easily mastered than others. I feel pretty good about picking up the forms, and I’m pleasantly surprised to say I enjoy working with weapons. However, I feel like a fish out of water when it comes to sparring.
No one enjoys being bad at something. If you aren’t immediately good at a particular task, it can be hard to find the will to go on. But if you keep your end goal in mind and realize that there are many parts of a whole, then you are willing to devote time and effort to mastering each task. That willingness will increase and possibly turn into genuine interest with the right amount of support.
In short, I’ve become more willing to spar because I’m in a supportive environment, and my efforts are meeting with small amounts of success. I am now able to recognize I’m actually getting better! My martial arts experience is not unlike a language learner doing well in one area, like grammar, and struggling in another, say, pronunciation. The struggle in a particular area can stir up frustration and self-doubt. If a learner’s effort is not encouraged and supported, then it is difficult to go on. Had my instructor not told me funny anecdotes about his own struggles and had my classmates not cheered for me when I stepped into the sparring ring, I might have given into tears and quit after the first time I got kicked in the head!
I don’t mean to say we need to bring out the pom-poms and the marching band as ELTs, but we do need to think of ways to infuse lessons with a positive tone. One strategy I sometimes use is choosing or designing uplifting content.
In a recent lesson with a beginner, I felt that more review of irregular comparative adjectives and adverbs was needed. I wanted to reinforce the grammar, but develop comfort with speaking and pronunciation. As a result, I created a simple set of tasks that I can share with classroom teachers in the form of my Good, Better, Best_handout. I hope you’ll appreciate the secondary intention, which was to cheer the learner on.
Photo “Half-time Show” by Michael Neel (Creative Commons)
Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/scoregasm/