This week began with in-class evaluation at my karate school. It is a time for all the kids to demonstrate their skills and for Paul and I to assess which belt they move to. Karate is entirely a personal journey. There is no team waiting for you to pass the ball. There is no pressure from a coach to do better. There is no ref standing on the sidelines, calling fouls. There is only the students putting forth their best effort. We tell them that we are always assessing where they are. The “test” is simply to put pressure on them to see how they react.
Today I was granted the privilege of seeing one of my students shine. This student does not like to be late. He felt he was late because he joined the mat just as we bowed in, instead of the usual line up on the side and turn in your card. He started the “test” standing still with his arms crossed. He was clearly not happy. I gave him the encouraging look. He was not returning the favor. With that, I approach and stand next to him, murmuring words of encouragement. He began to block. Then he added the punch. Then he joined in with kicks. I walked away, he had come out of his shell and it was his time to shine. I sat and watched the whole class, looking for reciprocating limbs, students paying attention, watching their forms. Then we break boards. This same student I called forward. He is tall and skinny, very uncoordinated, all legs and arms. He stands before me and practically growls. The determination on his face says it all. He WILL break the board. He starts by kicking me. Already I can feel that he has improved his strength and technique. The board is held and he taps it, instead of kicking through it. He tries again and again and again and again. Each time the look remains. He WILL break this board. I grab a slightly narrower board and he tries again and again and again. It does not break. The wood in front of him has acted like a barrier to what he can do. Instead of kicking through the board he walks to the side and stomps it in half. At the end of the day, he has achieved another belt in his karate journey, and I am reminded that “practice makes progress.”
There are times I wish that teaching reading, writing, and math could be as individualized as karate and that we don’t have to rise to a certain standard at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, I believe students should be assessed, I just wish that it was recognized in more general terms that students learn differently and at different times. They may not be open to or able to learn a certain concept because that is not where they are. Instead I would rather have progress recognized. I gave a student a reading assessment today. She is behind her grade level peers by about 3 grades. Even though this was the same level I gave in January, she made progress. She made fewer errors, and read the piece almost a minute quicker. She practiced and made progress and that should be celebrated.
“Practice makes progress” was said to me by one of my 10 year old karate students. He is wise beyond his years. That phrase has stuck with me the last few days. Practice does make progress, therefore I vow to make my own progress.
I will practice my patience.
I will practice speaking with good purpose.
I will practice safe driving (not speeding).
I will practice taking time for me.
I will practice looking for the glass half full option.
I will practice not swearing.
I will practice not negatively talking about myself in front of the kids.
I will practice leading by example, because you never know who is watching.
Practice makes progress and I will practice.