© 2008 Douglas Tong, all rights reserved
a good teacher?
question is constantly in my mind, being a schoolteacher. But in
terms of martial arts, where we put our faith and decades of training
in the hands of one person, how do we know if we have a good teacher
people say, I know a good teacher when I see one. Ah! The approach
based on intuition and feeling. We depend on our 6th
to inform us if we have a good teacher. Or maybe it is about feeling,
how I feel after a class, how I feel about this teacher. I may like
the teacher and maybe this is all that counts. But I still haven’t
answered the question: is he or she a good teacher?
believe that to depend on feelings alone would blind us, blind us to
the teacher’s shortcomings. As they say, love is blind. Some
teachers are very charismatic, even though they may know little. They
can turn on the charm, and we are mesmerized. But what are we
learning and what are they teaching us?
to a student of mine recently who had studied at another school and
when he asked the teacher what style of kenjutsu it was that he was
learning, the teacher told him “Oh, don’t worry. It’s
all good stuff.” But the teacher had nice cuts and showed one
amazing technique where he threw the sword quickly from hand to hand.
The explanation? It is a technique designed to confuse the opponent.
makes a good teacher? From the example above, obviously we would
argue that knowledge of the art (expertise) would have to be a key
criteria. But is this all that makes a good teacher? I am sure that
we have all encountered in our lives an expert (be it a carpenter, an
artist, a musician, etc…) who knew their art inside and out
but for some reason or other were not able to teach it effectively to
students. This happens particularly frequently in sports where gifted
athletes in a sport do not make very good coaches. They can play the
game well, know the game, and perform all the skills exquisitely, but
when it comes to teaching it to a bunch of students, they have
known teachers, who being very skilled and accomplished in their
martial art, cannot grasp why others cannot learn it and get
frustrated. They then belittle and berate the students, with the
rationale that they are trying to spur the students on, to toughen
them up, to push them to achieve. They shout, they scream, they make
comments about how lousy their technique is. Some do it perhaps to
egg the student on, to push them enough that hopefully out of their
anger and frustration, they develop the will to strive to better
ends justify the means, they argue. If the student eventually
achieves something and becomes skilled in the art, then the berating
served a purpose. Some people say, that’s the old way of
teaching. Somehow this justifies the bullying. But is this good
teachers may berate and belittle students as a means of retaining
control of the class, of showing the students who is boss around
here. Is this good teaching?
So what is
a good teacher? This is a question that has concerned and continues
to concern the educational profession. For you teachers of martial
arts out there, this is a question of particular importance. Remember
our question of expertise in the art and teaching competence? Most
martial arts do not have separate streams of study in their art, one
to develop expertise in the art and another to develop expertise in
teaching it. The ability to teach it is also an art in itself. This
is the art of teaching.
martial arts, there is an assumption that if you have a 4th
dan or 5th
dan or whatever is the threshold level of
expertise in the art, that you are a good teacher. Is this so? What
makes a good teacher? What is good teaching practice? What do
responsible and dedicated teachers do?
working as a teacher in Ontario, we are regularly appraised on our
ability to teach. The Government of Ontario has outlined 16 key
competencies that teachers should possess, divided into 5 domains or
categories. A good, competent teacher demonstrates most, if not all,
of these competencies:
Commitment to Pupils and Pupil
Teachers demonstrate commitment to the well-being and development of
Teachers are dedicated in their efforts to teach and support pupil
learning and achievement.
Teachers treat all pupils equitably and with respect.
Teachers provide an environment for learning that encourages pupils
to be problem solvers, decision makers, lifelong learners, and
contributing members of a changing society.
Teachers know their subject matter, the Ontario curriculum, and
Teachers know a variety of effective teaching and assessment
Teachers know a variety of effective classroom management strategies.
Teachers know how pupils learn and factors that influence pupil
learning and achievement.
Teachers use their professional knowledge and understanding of
pupils, curriculum, legislation, teaching practices, and classroom
management strategies to promote the learning and achievement of
Teachers communicate effectively with pupils, parents, and
Teachers conduct ongoing assessment of pupils' progress, evaluate
their achievement, and report results to pupils.
Teachers adapt and refine their teaching practices through continuous
learning and reflection, using a variety of sources and resources.
Teachers use appropriate technology in their teaching practices and
related professional responsibilities.
Leadership in Learning Communities
Teachers collaborate with other teachers and school colleagues to
create and sustain learning communities in their classrooms and in
their schools .
Teachers work with professionals, parents, and members of the
community to enhance pupil learning, pupil achievement, and school
Ongoing Professional Learning
1. Teachers engage in ongoing professional learning and apply it to
improve their teaching practices.
article, I thought it would be useful for teachers of martial arts to
just see this set of competencies, to understand what the teaching
profession defines as good, responsible, competent teaching. And
hopefully this insight will help teachers who are teaching martial
arts to reflect more deeply on their teaching practices and their
Mr. Tong is a public schoolteacher in
the province of Ontario.