Teaching to different levels of beginner

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  • #129882
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    Anonymous
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    Greetings,

    I’ll be starting to teach the set in 12 weekly classes starting September 28th and so I thought Id throw this one out there cause Ive been wondering about it for awhile.

    How do you ensure everyone keeps flowing, engaged and learning if there are varying levels of experience or natural talent in the class?

    Im wondering this for obvious reasons and curious whether I should go with the “weakest link” and go at the speed of their pace or whether its ok to let them struggle a bit or move on even if they are not “getting it” as much as the others.  It seems like this could be potentially tricky to navigate at times and Im sure more experienced instructors have had to work through this many times.  

    Id really appreciate anyones feedback, experience and insights on this.

    Cheers,

    Kevin

     

    #136509
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    I will be teaching my first run of this class coming up starting Sept 12, Kevin.

    From previous teaching experiences, and taking and repeating classes in other curricula, I think you will find that encouraging those with more experience to revisit the basics can be helpful. There is an old saying, “a master is always a beginner”, perhaps remind them of that if they get restive. :-)

    There is always another layer, another level, of even the most simple principles – another go around the 16 neigung principles for those more advanced perhaps?

    I would be leery of pushing the “newbies” to satisfy the quicker studies.

    Hope some of that is helpful!

    Warmly,
    Joel

    #136510
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    Anonymous
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    Hi Joel,

    Thanks for sharing your perspective-much appreciated!

    All the best with your classes!

    Kevin

    #136511
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    Anonymous
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    Hi,
    My first dragon and tiger class is starting September 7! I am excited and nervous at the same time. I have some people signed up that have never done qigong and some who are way more experienced than I am.

    I have taught a mixed-level tai chi class for a few years. Because it is offered through our community center, it is open to anyone at any time. This presents challenges to say the least. I have noticed that my less-skilled students really rely on watching and following the teacher. I try to position myself so they can follow me easily, while encouraging my more-skilled students to do the movements on their own without watching. It is surprising how dependent people get on watching and following and this can challenge the higher students while you provide more support to the others.

    As Joel suggested, it has helped me to have a couple of ideas to feed the quicker students while the slower ones catch up. I am thinking that the idea of beginning to feel the pathways continuously will be a good challenge. That way, the whole group is working on the same thing at the same time, and I won’t be trying to teach 2 different concepts (pathways AND breathing, for example) at once. We’ll see how that works out!!

    If this is the first time any of our students have encountered Dragon and Tiger, at least they will all be learning new movements. That will help , I think.

    I think it is possible, at some point, that we will have to move on even though not everyone is proficient. Otherwise, some students will spend the entire 10-12 weeks on the first move. It will be a balancing act. I wonder if offering some resources to the people who are struggling might help — such as a private session, or purchasing the online course with Bill, or reassuring them that you will be offering the class again?? I am also wondering about handouts for people to take home to assist with their individual practice?

    I would sure like to hear more ideas and strategies (successful ideas as well as ones to avoid), as this is a difficult challenge……

    Thanks,
    Jeanette

    #136512
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    Hi all,

    I have a few observations about this for now.

    1. My experience is that when you are teaching the physical movements to people who are learning them for the first time, it doesn’t make that much difference whether folks have a lot of experience in other forms of qigong or movement or not. The movements are challenging enough that very few people can learn them quickly. Often the more experienced people think they can learn them quickly, but can’t, even if they are naturally well coordinated. So everyone in the class is being challenged in some way, either to get used to something really new or to slow down and realize they have to be beginners again. So you can just teach everyone the same core material, and they’ll be happy.

    2. Having said that, there will be a difference in how people do with learning the moves and with how much they practice between classes. So you will end up ideally giving faster people a few more nuances of the moves to play with, medium people the core material, and slower people simpler versions so that they don’t fall too far behind. You can do this by teaching something and while they are all practicing that material, you can simply go around and briefly mention to each person (or similar persons) something they should really focus on while doing what you’ve just taught, while they all are practicing that material.

    3. As to how much time to give different people, I try to give each person in the class the same amount of attention/energy from me. It’s easy to get drawn to the slower people to help them keep up or to the faster people because they are more fun to teach. So I just decided to make sure everyone got the same amount of energy – however I could make that work. And that has seemed to work well over the years with most people, as it’s inherently fair to everyone. Sometimes there are people who want to grab as much of your time and energy as they can, and this approach doesn’t work for them so well, but that’s okay.

    4.The big problem in teaching tai chi or D&T or other energy arts is how do you keep people going once they’ve learned the basic moves. I always find it’s really hard to serve beginners well if they are mixed in a class with those who are not, and vice versa. So I’ve always found a way to have a class for beginners only to learn the D&T form, and then a second class for ongoing students to learn refinements. You can get a sense of how we do this in our school, by looking at the D&T courses page on our website:

    https://www.towardharmony.com/dragon-tiger/

    Especially, look at the Learning Levels link.

    I plan to post more information about our various courses in the different Learning Levels and their content.

     

     

    #136513
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    Anonymous
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    Wow, that was super helpful. Thanks Bill!

    #136514
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    Anonymous
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    hi everyone, good to connect here again.

    I started my 12 weekly class Oct 24th teaching 8 of my colleagues. So I just had 2 sessions. What Bill had said is very helpful as I have 2 very tense and somehow resistant students. Everything I taught was met with:
    “Can’t do it”
    “can’t feel it”
    “but I feel better with my knees straight”

    Obviously we know each other quite well and they do it in a joking/children-like fashion.
    So far I chose not to respond to the resistance and carried on teaching. I am guessing it’s a kind of attention-grabbing behaviour? Hopefully by not responding to that they will stop. But I think some of the faster students who are more interested in D&T are irritated by them.

    Teaching really is an art………..

    Huailo

    #136515
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    Hey again Huailo!

    I have had a similar experience. Most of the students Im teaching are either friends or aquaintances so Ive experienced a few silly “outbursts” I guess you could call them. One of the people has never done qigong before and so I got the sense that because of this perhaps they felt a bit uncomfortable and so was a bit silly for a moment but I find just going along with it has worked for me…actually I often do something silly to emphasize correct vs. incorrect to get the point across and also to keep it light! Ive learned that it can feel mechanical and repetitive to some so some humour can help!
    Saying that though Ive also tried the ignoring the behaviour method too-sometimes they need to shake something out and let it pass! I totally agree teaching this stuff is an art.
    With the “Can’t do it” attitude I remind them that I “couldnt do it” once upon a time and also that I also still have soo much to learn. Then focus on what they CAN do.
    Re: Can’t feel it” , I have done the feeling the aura in various parts of the body like the palms then arms etc. and found for a few that was enough or at least inspirong for them to want to learn more. Also I remind them that you dont have to feel to benefit!
    Re: the knees straight thing, Id probably explain how it blocks energy and basically defeats the purpose of doing qigong…could be tough if they really dont want to be there…perhaps just informining them of why a bend in the knees is enough, then leave it alone and see what happens.
    I think it can be easy to take responsibility for our students happiness or ultimately how much they absorb. I personally want everyone to Love qigong and to “get it” and practice and not miss class. However its clear to me this ain’t gonna happen!!
    Thanks for the opportunity to share Huailo, hope this helps in some small way.
    Best!
    Kevin

    #136516
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    Anonymous
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    Hi,

    I was thinking about your student with the locked knees, Huilo. It might be possible that she has some structural and/or soft tissue imbalances that make her locked knees seem necessary to remain upright in standing. If this is the way she has been standing for a long time, it probably feels normal and right and secure to her. Softening her knees may make her feel out of balance for a good reason until some other places in her body (feet, ankles, hips, pelvis) begin to soften and realign as well. Body mis-alignments can be really subtle and difficult to see. The generalized relaxing effect of Dragon and Tiger will hopefully work its magic on her and in a few more lessons, she will be able to soften her knees in a more comfortable and safe-feeling way!

    I have one more class in my dragon and tiger series. It’s been a lot of fun, but you are right, teaching is an art!

    Good luck!
    jeanette

    #136517
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    Hi Jeanette

    Thanks for the comments. You are right about mis-alignment. She’s been standing with locked knees all day in the lab. I think partly due to the bad design of lab benches, partly due to laziness.

    I am so behind on my teaching XD I planned 12 x 1 hour lessons, but I didn’t take into account of general lack of exercise, therefore lack of body awareness. So just the physical movement is very hard for them to co-ordinate. I realise now that I was too idealistic in planning.

    I do reminders at the beginning of the class, but what do you do when they don’t practise and have forgotten pretty much all previous movements? Ideas?

    Huailo

    #136518
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    Anonymous
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    On practicing at home……

    I have a couple ideas that seemed to help my students practice more.

    First, I structured my lesson plans so they could be used as handouts for each class. I tried to outline basic info such as pathways for the movements, key points to remember, and specific things for “at home practice”. I also put some information in the handout about what the movements were good for, vocabulary, etc. We did not always have time to go over all the information from the handout during class, but I figured they could read some of it at home. The students really liked getting a handout every week, and mentioned that it was helpful as a reminder of what we had learned.

    In addition, I gave them a youtube link (search Dragon and Tiger on youtube — there are a number to choose from) that they could watch at home to jog their memories and/or practice along with. A number of them really liked having a video to practice with, and some of them never looked at it! One woman took a video of me doing 10 reps of each move to practice with.

    I am quite certain that a few of my students never practice at home, but they keep coming to class so they must be getting something out of it. I figure that if the only time they practice is once a week, it is better than nothing. I just expect less quality of movement from those that don’t practice versus those who do. I had asked them to commit to the class for the specified number of times (mine happened to be 11 classes), so I made sure to introduce all the movements within that time frame, even though they were not able to really master the moves by the last class. They choose to continue the class so now we are starting over – practicing a full set of 10 reps, then focusing much of the class time on practicing/refining a single movement. I am finding that they are much faster learners, and more committed, the second time around. One person had had enough after the initial classes, and dropped out!

    I’d love to hear other ideas/experiences from all of you……!

    Thanks,
    Jeanette

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