Friday, 18 November 2011

Another assessment sneaks up on me....

Just when I thought the testing was all over for a couple of years, Sensei suddenly announces that I will be taking my Instructor’s assessment on Monday!

Actually it was Monday just gone so I have already done it….but he did suddenly sneak it up on me with about a weeks’ notice. Though the date did arrive rather more quickly than I had anticipated I have actually been preparing for it for a couple of years.

As many readers will know I have been assisting with teaching in our junior class regularly since I became a brown belt.  This started with partnering people without a partner, to going through a junior belt syllabus with a couple of kids, to organising pad work, teaching break falling, to teaching kata and basic kumite skills.

The original intention was that I would be assessed for an Assistant Instructor certificate which at the time was available for brown belts who were assisting with the 9th – 4th kyu grades. However, my own black belt training and testing got in the way of thinking about an Assistant Instructor assessment, so it never happened.

Once I became a black belt I moved my focus back to teaching a bit more and my instructor started taking me along to taster sessions that he was giving at local primary schools. I got the chance to teach these young children and we started an after-school club at one of the schools. To give me greater experience my instructor has allowed me to ‘front’ these classes, planning and teaching the classes myself, with him assisting me -a strange feeling that!

Anyway, my instructor decided I was ready to take the Instructors assessment and set the date for last Monday. We decided that it may be best to go for the Club level Instructor (level 2) rather than just Assistant level Instructor (level 1). This will enable me to teach up to 1st dan level and teach independently at some future date if I want to.

The assessment involved teaching both the junior and senior classes on Monday evening. I had to demonstrate knowledge and skill at teaching an entire grade syllabus to the class, chosen at random by my instructor. For the junior class 5th kyu (blue belt) syllabus was chosen and for the senior class the 1st dan syllabus was chosen. Of course I was also being assessed on my ability to organise and control the class, meet individual children’s needs and deal with any discipline issues as they arose.

In addition to the practical teaching there was also a short oral exam where I was questioned about such things as our Association and Governing body structure, ethics and code of behaviour for clubs in the SSK, administration and record keeping, health and safety in the dojo, teaching children and people with special needs, emergencies and first aid and what I need to do to maintain my Instructor’s licence.

All in all I thought it was a comprehensive but fair assessment.  I was a bit nervous to start with but after doing a full seiza bow with the junior class and starting the warm up my nerves kind of disappeared and I just got on with it. The kids knew I was being assessed and were wonderfully behaved (as they generally are anyway). Most of the kids I had were red, yellow and orange belts so the blue belt syllabus was a bit new to them – adding to the challenge! This meant that I didn’t complete all sections of the syllabus in the lesson but I wanted to leave time for a game at the end to reward the kids for being so good!

It was then straight into the senior class with another seiza bow and warm up. Most of our 1st kyu students are preparing for their black belt test in December so after I had taken them through the basic kihon sections as a group they disappeared to the back of the hall to practice all their partner work together and with Sensei.

This left me with a group of about 8 children ranging from green to brown belt to take through the 1st dan syllabus – so another challenge! There was no way I was going to cover all 15 sections in the time available so once I had covered all the kihon and kata/bunkai sections, Sensei asked me to skip to the kumite sections. We then had about 15 minutes of jiyu and shiai kumite.  I’m not too confident with the refereeing of shiai kumite but I just had to do the best I could with what I know about refereeing, which quite frankly is not a great deal at the moment!

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I passed the assessment and I’m now a fully licensed club level karate instructor for the SSK – the first new instructor since the organisation was formed 2 years ago.  I feel in no way ready to take on the commitment and responsibility of running an independent club – I still have too much to learn myself.

So for now,  I will continue my own training towards nidan, continue assisting my instructor to build up my skills further, continue with the after school club (which I may take on independently next year, with my instructor as mentor, overseer and grading officer) and cover classes when my instructor is away…’s all an interesting and challenging part of the journey…..

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Rig said...

Congratulations Sue

Charles James said...

Hi, Sue:

Sue said, "... Though the date did arrive rather more quickly than I had anticipated I have actually been preparing for it for a couple of years. ...

The second part is important to all your readers. Looking to the future; preparation, preparation, preparation. Just like; practice, practice, practice .... and when you think you have it pretty good you; practice, practice, practice some more. Awesome.

Sue said, " ... to taster sessions ..."

Can I make the assumption that by "taster" you mean to give the primary schools a "taste" of Karate?

Sue said, " ... Club level Instructor (level 2) rather than just Assistant level Instructor (level 1). ... "

Can you describe for me what your levels are at your dojo for instructor?

Sue said, " ... to maintain my Instructor’s licence. ... "

Do you have any government type validation for a karate instructor license or is this your association/governing body for karate thing?

Sue said, " ... I feel in no way ready to take on the commitment and responsibility of running an independent club – I still have too much to learn myself. ... "

Sue, even tho I suspect you could you are wise to resist that urge. There is so much you will accomplish to the San-dan grade. Were I living in your area the day you opened your own dojo I would be proud to stand at the dojo gate to apply for lessons.

Sue said, " ... and cover classes when my instructor is away ... "

This alone, speaks volumes as to your capability and their confidence in you, your ability and your character .... doah, not to far a stretch of a guess on my part huh! ;-) Congrats on such a wonderfully frightful accomplishment; you seem to be living up to the old saying, "congratulations, you have earned your wings - welcome to the sky!"

I guess I am so enthusiastic is becase in my past I seldom have witnessed this type of dedication and drive in Sho-dan .... mostly.

Sue C said...

Rig, thank you.

1. 'Taster sessions' are exactly like you describe. We go into the school and the pupils come a class at a time for 20-30 minutes and we introduce them to karate - a few basic moves, a couple of drills and a game - just make it fun. If there is enough interest from the school after that we look into starting an after school club there.

2. We have 3 levels of instructor in our organisation:
Level 1. Assistant Instructor who is minimum 1st dan, 18yrs + and can instruct 9th - 4th kyu in presence of a club instructor.
Level 2. Club level instructor. min.1st dan, 18yrs+, can instruct 9th kyu - 1st dan. Must have instructor insurance and can teach independently.
Level 3. Senior instructor. min 3rd dan. 21yrs+. Must be insured. Can teach up to 3rd dan.

3. Validation of teaching licence is not a government requirement. Martial Arts are completely unregulated in UK. However a reputable organisation will have its own standards and regulations that one must adhere to if one wants to be an instructor in that organisation. The SSK has high standards for its instructors.

Thanks for all your kind words Charles :-)

Charles James said...

Arigato Sue, for the information :-)

John Coles said...

Found it interesting that your instructor grading appears to be independent of your black belt grading.

Jan de Jong struggled with this approach for a number of years prior to his passing. His shodan includes, and has a great deal of emphasis on, being a teacher. However, he appreciated all those that achieve technical proficiency worthy of shodan will not become teachers. He was working on a proposal whereby there would be two 'types' of black belt: a teachers one and a non-teachers one. That is obviously problematic as it is assumed by the general public that black belt means teaching, and nobody looks at the fine print on a qualification certificate.

Sue C said...

Hi John, I am aware that there are some systems in which the shodan grading qualifies the individual to teach their system but this is not the case with our system.

There is a distinction made between 'doing some teaching' and 'being an instructor'. Most of our black belts are capable of helping out a bit with more junior students - helping to teach a technique or give feedback on a kata etc but to be an actual instructor where one has responsibility for lesson planning and class management as well as the actual teaching is not covered in our shodan testing. These were the things that I was really being tested on in this assessment. I've also had to do a first aid course, be CRB (criminal records bureau) checked and take out martial arts instructor insurance.

Like you say, not everyone who is capable of 'black belt proficiency' is capable of or wishes to become an instructor. I think this is why the instructor assessment is kept separate.

Journeyman said...

Great work Sue.

I consider the permission to teach to be an extremely high honour and I know you've earned that privilege. As we've both touched on in the past, teaching is also a great learning experience and will increase your abilities as much, if not more, than those you teach. Another chapter in your journey has begun.


Sue C said...

Journeyman, Thank you. Like you say, teaching is a great learning experience, I think it is a role one grows into with time and experience. I definitely feel like the 'rookie' teacher at the moment!

. said...

Well done Sue!! You will make the most excellent instructor I know. Your students will be very privileged to have you.

Like yours, our instructor qualification is separate from our Shodan grading (although it is anticipated that they will be in line with one another). It is still a stand alone course covering all aspects (not just teaching in the traditional sense but also safeguarding, health and safety, first aid, data protection, lesson planning etc).

I don't believe that just achieving Shodan would qualify someone to teach karate. Teaching is so much more than just knowing your syllabus stuff.

Congratulations (again).


Sue C said...

Marie, thank you. Sounds like your system operates in a similar way to ours.

Felicia said...

Way to go, Sue! Congrats on your certification :-)

Sue C said...

Thanks Felicia :-)


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