Getting it right
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Some teaching and child frustrations cropping up the last few days. One of our students was out for several months for some serious medical issues. He's back now, though the issues aren't resolved, merely temporarily managed. Today, I put him through his paces, seeing how much he had forgotten - and the answer was quite a bit. He made it through the five kata he's responsible for, but with major mistakes in all of them, and he's forgotten about half of his vocabulary.
At the end of this, he wanted to know if he could test for blue belt soon! Apparently he feels he's been an orange belt long enough, and the idea that he really does have to know and be able to perform the requirements of the blue belt test accurately in order to get a blue belt hasn't made an impression on him at all. Which rather boggles me. We have a different, but similar issue with my son Robbie, who has now been a blue belt for what feels like forever. He knows his stuff. He knows he can't test for green until he can perform it all up to snuff. Literally he could test for green belt next week - if he cared enough about getting things right to perform with attention and enthusiasm. Instead he walks through all his kata as if sleep-walking, and fights entirely in defensive mode unless someone pisses him off.
In both cases, there seems to be a fundamental disconnect with the way I think. Neither child seems to see any base importance to getting things right. Robbie cares if he knows what right is - but not if he performs it at any given point (drives his music teachers starkers!) Once he knows he knows it, he doesn't subsequently care if anybody else can tell. C - the other child, on the other hand, doesn't seem to feel that even knowing correctly in the first place is important.
In order to be a good and effective teacher, I need to be able to work with the kids (aka, I want to get being a teacher right!) - but I have no idea how to inspire these kids to care. I can't just make them care or be enthusiastic.
Rob says that I care about getting things right a lot more than most people do, and he's probably right, but I just can't see putting in time and effort on something and doing it half-assed. Makes no sense to me at all. I can understand when someone is forced into something - Lord knows I wasn't enthusiastic about every required aspect of school (Gym anyone? Yuck!) - but C wants to be in karate badly enough to come when his mother would rather he stay home because she worried sick about his illnesses (lung and neurological), and Robbie requested to come back to karate after a nearly three year hiatus, so he knows very clearly that he's not required to be there, and has repeatedly said he wants to keep coming.
I see similar things all over the music studio I go to. Half the singers in the beginning bands aren't remotely on key (I didn't even know you could scream off-key, until I heard a horrendous version of Smells Like Teen Spirit). People who want to sing or play, want to be in a band, want to be on stage, but don't seem to get that you need to actually be able to perform well in order to do those things. It boggles my mind, and occasionally makes me want to claw my ears off - having perfect relative pitch is not a blessing around hit-or-miss singers.
Today's Japanese: Watashi-no musuko-wa karate-o benkyo shimasu. My son studies karate.
In Japanese, very much unlike English, verbs are a closed class, while pronouns are an open class. An open class, is a class of words in which there are a large number of words, and to which new words are added all the time. Nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs would be open classes of words in English. We add new nouns and verbs and adjectives to the language all the time. Closed classes have a limited number of vocabulary words in them, and new words are added very rarely. Pronouns and conjunctions would be examples in English. To give an example, e-mail as a word didn't exist when I was a kid, but it's been adopted thoroughly and by everyone with no fuss at all. Contrariwise, we've been arguing over adding a set of singular, gender-neutral pronouns to the language for my entire life, and are not particularly closer to adding any to common usage.
Well in Japanese, pronouns are an open class. There are at least a dozen different ways of saying "I" - some formal, some casual, some used only by young men, or children, and so on and so forth - and they change all the time. Watashi is a fairly neutral, polite-to-strangers, won't get you in trouble version of "I", but you're just as likely to hear a college student say "Boku" for I instead. Verbs, on the other hand, are a closed class. There are a very limited number of verbs, and they don't change easily. Instead, when they need a new verb, the Japanese use a noun and one of the existing nouns. So "to play tennis" is tenisu-o shimasu (to make tennis). Or as above, "to study" is benkyo-o shimasu.