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Teach and Learn Karate

Article for Shotokan Karate Magazine 2010 by Jonathan de’ Claire - KDS 4th Dan

I changed my career several years back and retrained as a teacher, undertaking a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). On the course, there was a major stress on the need to differentiate in your planning and delivery of lessons. This would enable a teacher, in theory, to deliver the similar subject matter to a range of ability levels within the same lesson, or planned group of lessons. This ability to differentiate your teaching, underpinned individual lesson planning and was the driving force for assessors and inspectors to focus upon. It was and is, meant to allow access to learning for all, no matter what their individual ability and specific areas of strength or areas in need of improvement. We also, were taught techniques for class management. Examples of these were proximity control, for individuals whose attention was wandering elsewhere, or visual and physical cues as indicators of intention and attention!

Then I qualified and my first long term teaching post was at a school near Cardiff. But this was no ordinary school. It was a residential school that focused on young people with a statemented learning difficulties - Emotional, Behavioural and Social Difficulties (EBSD) to be more precise. Statemented children with added wide ranging needs such Aspergers Syndrome, Terrets, ADHD, and Cerebral Paulsy were all common and so their demands and the demands to teach them was great. Considering their challenging behaviour was the main reason for their attendance at the school, the challenge for teaching then was massive, to say the least. For one thing, those with Aspergers might commonly misread body language and facial expressions (that is if they would even look at your face), sometimes resulting in violent outbursts that only they knew the reason for. This group would also take words in a very literal sense, so there was no room for ambiguity in any verbal communication or the reaction could be one of emotional crisis for a young person or just misunderstanding of an intended meaning. On top of this any anxiety in one pupil could trigger another off and a minor problem could soon escalate out of proportion.

Further more, there are multiple intelligences to consider. These are the areas of intelligence (other than bog standard academic) that individuals excel in the most and indicate a preferred learning style. For instance, a lot of the young people that I teach seem to prefer kinaesthetic learning activities. This is what they enjoy most and gain the greatest learning benefit from as it is what they are good at. For them they need to do things physically and experience it. Sitting and listening (linguistic intelligence) is of small value if used as a predominant teaching tool. Those who benefit most from a visual approach may need more in the way of pictorial learning or video footage for instance, to enhance their learning.

Certainly differentiated planning was crucial to account for these diverse needs in both academic ability or intelligence and learning style preference along with the emotional capacity to learn and function effectively with others. But do you stick to a planned lesson, just because you have planned it? Certainly not, is my answer! If an imagination is sparked, or an interest needs answering, then adaptability must be the key. A flexible approach to teaching has certainly allowed me deliver memorable lessons that were not planned, but will certainly be remembered! To go with the flow of interest is to jump on the roller coaster of enthusiasm and an opportunity not to be missed just for the sake of sticking to a plan! Of course, this is not to say that all the lessons I teach meander, far from it. Planning plays a major role in my teaching practice. Without planning, preparation is poor at best and subject knowledge can be left to chance. The result being, a poorly delivered lesson which equates to poor learning for the students. I soon found out that each young person needed to be treated in a different manner and that bog standard teaching tools had their place but also their limitations!


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