Sunday, January 25, 2009

Children and the Children's Menu

I believe I mentioned on one of my previous posts that I teach martial arts. I myself have been taking classes for over three years, but I've only been teaching for not quite a year. What started off as just a weeknight activity gradually turned into a huge aspect of my life. Not only has it kept me in shape (I can do a split all the way to the ground) but I have met and befriended so many wonderful people that I never would have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. (Including my boyfriend, but that story is long, and shall be saved for another time.)

I started off taking classes in a rather large class with mainly children participating. Also taking the classes with me were my younger brother and sister. Within a couple years, we'd achieved the rank of black belt, and were a part of the small percentage of advanced students in our area. So when the grandmaster of our organization was going to be paying a visit during one of the belt testings, we, along with the other more dedicated and older students, were invited a breakfast with him on the morning of the testing.

It was a nice setup. The breakfast was buffet-style at the hotel across the street from the testing site. Granted, although the three of us were the younger of the group (I believe I was 19 at the time, my sister 17, and our brother 13), aside from my brother, we were by no means children. The waitress leading us to our tables, however, spotted the three of us in the group and inquired, "How many children's menus will you be needing?"

My instructor's fiancee looked over at my brother, and then back at the waitress.

"Well, he's the youngest one here, and he's 13, so I guess we won't be needing any," she replied.

The waitress looked confused, and gestured over at me.

"You mean, the young lady is older than the young man?" she asked, clearly surprised.

I couldn't believe it. It was yet another mistake based on my youthful appearance. In front of the grandmaster, no less! I was extremely embarrassed.

"I'm 19," I spoke up, not wanting to be confused as a little kid, when clearly, I was not.

The waitress looked very surprised, and the rest of the group had a chuckle.

It seemed that even my younger brother had a more grown-up appearance than I. (Granted, he's far taller than I am now. I think at the time he was about the same height, if not just a little bit taller.)

When it comes to teaching, too, parents don't seem to approach me with any questions until after I've put on my gi, or martial arts uniform. After I've donned my black belt, however, they immediately come forward and introduce themselves, or inquire about anything they had been meaning to ask. (I guess there aren't too many teenage-looking girls who are martial arts instructors? Honestly, though, the average age of the students in that particular class is about 9 or 10!)

However, it's easier to gain the respect of my students, who range from 6 years of age, up to adulthood. (But mainly in the 6-14 years range.) While it is more of a challenge to teach younger kids than adults, it does have its own set of rewards. For example, I have one student who has repeatedly expressed her desire that my instructor should start up a martial arts boarding school, "where students would live there all the time, and just study martial arts, and weapons, and train to be warriors! "

It makes me smile every time.

There are, however, a fair share of instances where I do not feel like smiling. Unruly students, students who don't want to be there, and students with no enthusiasm at all, are amongst those that do not encourage my smiles. However, in a small class the other day with an older student two very small boys, their unenthusiastic behavior forced my hand.

I had announced that the older student had passed his belt promotion, and was receiving a new degree. I instructed the two boys to give him a round of applause, as is custom, for his achievement.

The two boys, however, did nothing but stare at the ceiling, or fall on the ground in boredom.

"Or not," I had to laugh as I awarded the older student his degree. "You two are the worst classmates ever." I then informed them.

Needless to say, they didn't seem to care.

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