July 18th, 2013 by Jan

Another example:

When we first moved to Bowen Island I taught a six week self-defence course to young girls at the private school here. I have to say it was incredible at first.

I had a good curriculum gathered from some of the most amazing teachers of the subject in my life. Nadia Telsey, Jenny Sinanan and Joan Nelson to name drop some cred.

The class was optional. The girls had a choice between self-defence or some outside thing like hiking or plant identifying, I really don’t remember, but I do know that the girls who came to the class choose to.

It was great. We played all types of games, learned some skills using our minds, body, and voice.   I passed out homework that was done and we even had a final test and certificates at the end. The girls were attentive, brave and participated with gusto, even when it was scary.

I taught several successful sessions of the class until the Principle of the school decided it was such a good class they would make it mandatory. From now on, all the girls in grade seven and eight had to take self-defence.

It went down hill pretty fast.

On the first day of the mandatory session I actually got flipped off by a 12 year old! Some of the girls bullied others, talked backed, and rolled their eyes at me.

I think this might have been the first time I taught a class to people who did not want to learn. It took me by surprise. I have always taught folks who chose to come to my classes. Tai Chi, Qigong, glass bead making, whatever – I never had to drag anyone to a class , or force them to stay. I had never had the experience of dealing with someone who didn’t want to be there.

Side note: I have asked a few people to find a different tai chi teacher, as it was obvious I wasn’t a good fit for them, but most just leave if they don’t like my class and it was no problem.

But, this was different. Here I was with a class full of girls that were in just another mandatory class at school and all they had to do was make it until 3pm when the bell would ring and they could leave.

Long story short – I’m pretty sure it was only the second class of that session when I walked out of the class, leaving the girls on their own. Screw ‘em. I don’t have to do this. It may be mandatory for them, but I had no contract. They sat there watching me leave with their mouths hanging open.

I went to the principle. He said the girls didn’t like the French class either, but they had to take it, and for me to buck up. It was then I realized I didn’t have the skills or desire to teach people who didn’t want to learn. I left and he found someone else to babysit the girls.

Making this particular class mandatory ruined it. It was too bad. The girls could have learned some skills that would help them in life, but they were too resentful at having their choice taken away from them. It was hard and unfair to the girls that wanted to be there. The focus went into “controlling” the class instead of teaching the skills.

It was sad. The self-defence class at the school ended that year. The change did it in.

Optional? Mandatory? Privilege? I am still pondering.

2 thoughts on “tellmeanotherone

  1. Laura B

    Jan, thank you so much for making the choice to share your process with us in this way. Many of your thoughts are striking deep chords with me.


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