Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Believe Me, I'm Lying

When you teach bloody beginners they don't know you and there is no reason for them to trust you. That's why you might need to take additional methods to convince them. Eventually, you want to build trust with them though. Trust makes relationships a lot easier and for both students and teachers. As student there is a lot less inner resistance and and as teacher you will face more open students. It also makes for a leaning environment. This article tackles a situation I've seen happening and that is not only infringing trust but also tripping hazard to the learning process.

Flat Earth

Lots of teachers give their students rules, like "Your arm never goes beyond your body". I call those "beginner-rules" because you use them in the beginning to assist with some problem and eventually you have to throw the rule overboard, e.g. when you are teaching a movement when the elbow has to go past your body. It will be extremely difficult, especially if you have corrected them multiple times on "... and keep your elbows in front of your body". The reason is that this rule had implications. Your students trained to keep their elbows in front of them, and now they have to break their mindset and establish a new one. As a side note, Flat Earth teaching can easily result from strong bottom up structure.

Do you remember how long it took to go from flat earth to round? Some people died on the way. I'm glad that won't happen if you tell someone not every move starts with a rock step. 
Learning is connecting new knowledge to knowledge that the person already has.  Now if that old knowledge is absolute ("you always do x, y and r") you have to break that at some point. Usually this goes along with losing habits that you've trained hard to get in the first place. I've seen people dancing for 10 years and still facing problems that have to do with getting rid of habits they trained when they started, but were only rules for beginners.
When you teach a beginner-rule, you assume that your students can't handle the real way. They can - true story! The solution is simplification of the content of your classes instead of flat-earth-teaching. Simplified versions extend well. You can derive new truths while keep the existing beliefs and additionally go with the natural process of learning. For an example of simplification check out the math analogy in section Putting Technique Where It Belongs.

Another moment where you can make or break trust is when you mess up. It's not a sign of incompetence if you mess up, but a sign of humanity. So instead of hiding your mistake, acknowledge it and move on. It will increase credibility, because your students will see matching between what you say and what you do. Since we strive for harmony (...or), this will feel give your students a good feeling. Besides having other nice side-effects.

Not having to break any beliefs and seeing congruence in what you do and say makes you a lot more trust-worthy. Why should your students believe you, if you told them a rule in the beginning, that you break later? Why should they assume that what you are telling now is the real deal? Why should they trust you, if they see one thing and you say another? Be honest with your students right away, tell them what Lindy actually looks like to you, and not some phony version. It's worth it!