By Ken Blumreich
When teaching martial arts – or anything else, really – we are always in a race against the clock. Improvement comes through student practice, and every minute of lecture is one minute of drill time that is no longer available.
Efficient use of the time at the front of the class is the hallmark of an effective instructor. Here are three tips that you can use to maximize efficiency in the dojo:
Keep it simple.
Over-teaching is a common mistake. It occurs when an instructor goes into too much detail, or provides too many items to focus on. By the time the instructor is finished explaining, not only has unnecessary time been used, but the students have already forgotten part of the instruction.
To ensure that you are keeping things sufficiently simple, make certain that you are only trying to convey three or less main points, and that the essence of those points can be repeated back by the students with a single phrase. Verify this by having them call back your main points. Keep it simple!
Multi-task whenever feasible.
Teaching doesn’t have to involve standing at the front of the class and lecturing while the students stand at attention and listen. Whenever possible, combine the verbal portion of instruction with the demonstration or the active drill work. Demonstrate what you want the class to do, and explain it briefly during the demonstration. Add additional points in as the students are drilling.
Remember that this isn’t always possible. Sometimes safety issues or topic complexity will require that you have the class’s undivided attention while speaking. If you have to lecture, remember point 1 (Keep it simple!) and try to keep such lectures brief. Even then, you can increase efficiency by having students stretch while you talk. Multi-task whenever feasible!
Always have a plan.
Teaching without preparation isn’t difficult, and it isn’t even bad; however, it will always be less efficient than teaching with preparation. When you are going to teach, come into the class with a plan in mind. Having an outline in your head is better than nothing. Having an outline in your hand is even better. Having a detailed lesson plan that can be reused in the future is best of all!
When developing your plan, remember point 1 and point 2: keep it simple (make sure that your plan includes the three points that you want students focusing on during skill building, and make sure that those points are concise enough to be easily called back), and multi-task whenever feasible (build this into your class plan so that you know, for example, that you’re going to be discussing sparring rules while warming up). Put in the time up front, and your time on the floor will run more smoothly. Always have a plan!
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it is a solid starting point that will help you minimize wasted time, and it’s easy to remember: Keep it simple, multi-task when feasible, always have a plan!