© 2009 Douglas Tong, all rights reserved
Why can’t this student get
this? I’ve explained it a thousand times and he still can’t
seem to grasp it. Is he slow or am I doing something wrong?
actually a very common situation for teachers. We constantly run into
situations where students cannot grasp a certain concept or technique
that we are trying to teach them.
Is this student slow or
No, he or
she is not. However, it is clear that they are not getting the
concept you are trying to teach them. For some reason (a reason which
we do not understand), they cannot get it. It may not be that they
don’t want to understand it. It may actually be that they
cannot understand it. In other words, they are incapable of grasping
what you are trying to teach them through the method or approach you
are using. It may not be in their capacity to be able to understand
it as you understand it.
Am I doing something wrong?
Maybe you chose the wrong method.
again, maybe not. What you are doing may very well work wonderfully
on another student but again, for some reason, it does not work for
this particular student.
the frustration of teaching and yet, it is also the glorious
challenge of teaching. To find that key which unlocks the student’s
potential and allows him or her to learn.
I had a
student who initially was very good at learning the basic mechanics
of swordsmanship and showed early signs of quick progress. But he
soon ran into difficulties once we ventured into higher level material.
It wasn’t so much about mechanics anymore at that level. It
started to become a conceptual issue. Swordfighting became less how
to cut and became more when to cut and why, when to move and why,
where to move and why. We had moved from the technical into the
tactical, from the simple mechanics to the more abstract. And his
perplexed me for the longest time until a friend of mine suggested
that it may be due to his personality. Personality??
friend of mine then pointed me to a website specializing in
personality studies and I promptly investigated it and frankly was
intrigued. Could personality be the explanation why this student was
having so much difficulty in learning?
off the personality test and asked my student to take it. When I got
the test back, I plugged in his answers and presto, an analysis
popped up. Here is what it said:
(SJs) share the following core characteristics:
Guardians pride themselves on being dependable, helpful, and
Guardians make loyal mates, responsible parents, and stabilizing
Guardians tend to be dutiful, cautious,
humble, and focused on credentials and traditions.
Guardians are concerned citizens who trust authority, join groups,
seek security, prize gratitude, and dream of meting out justice.
the cornerstone of society, for they are the temperament given to
serving and preserving our most important social
institutions. Guardians have natural talent in managing goods and
services--from supervision to maintenance and supply -- and they use
all their skills to keep things running smoothly in their families,
communities, schools, churches, hospitals, and businesses.
can have a lot of fun with their friends, but they are quite serious
about their duties and responsibilities. Guardians take pride in
being dependable and trustworthy; if there's a job to be done, they
can be counted on to put their shoulder to the wheel. Guardians also
believe in law and order,
and sometimes worry that respect for authority, even a fundamental
sense of right and wrong, is being lost. Perhaps this is why
Guardians honor customs and traditions so strongly -- they are
that help bring stability
to our modern, fast-paced world.
and down-to-earth, Guardians believe in following
the rules and cooperating with others.
They are not very comfortable winging it or
blazing new trails; working steadily
within the system is the Guardian way, for in the long run loyalty,
discipline, and teamwork get the job done right. Guardians are
meticulous about schedules
and have a sharp eye for proper procedures. They are cautious
about change, even though they know that
change can be healthy for an institution. Better
to go slowly, they say, and look before
specifically, he is a Guardian: Supervisor
. And for
Supervisor, it states:
least ten percent of the population, Supervisors enjoy and are good
at making schedules, agendas, inventories, and so on,
and they much prefer tried and true ways of doing things over
speculation and experimentation.
read it, then it made complete sense. Yes, this is why my student had
such difficulties once we moved into the more abstract and nebulous
phase of learning. Even though we work through kata, at higher levels
the kata are explored in many different ways. Kata are the beginning,
the foundation, the launching pad. Once we were not strictly adhering
to the kata move-by-move then he became bewildered. It made complete
sense now. Now I teach him in a different way and he does understand.
But it is a different process that I use with him now and I have
different expectations of what he can achieve.
consider him a poor student, now that I know this about him?
Do I now
think he has poor potential?
the answer is “no” in both cases. He is what he is. It is
neither good nor bad. As his teacher, it is my responsibility to find
the best way to teach him. But knowing this has helped me to better
understand him and more importantly, how he learns, how he thinks.
not the panacea to cure all ills nor is it the one way to best
understand a student. It is just one more tool in our teaching
toolbox to help us understand our students better. And understanding
our students just a little more ultimately helps us to teach them
Try it on
your own students. You might be surprised or it might confirm what
you’ve thought all along. Either way, it is an interesting and,
in some cases, an enlightening experience.
the test: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp
get the test result indicating which type you are, click the first
link entitled: “____ type description by D.Keirsey” to
get the description of your personality type.
is the overview of the 4 personality types, or temperaments:
is all based on the Myers-Briggs personality inventory. For more
information about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, go here:
caveat however: when you ask someone to take the test, you should ask
them to respond truthfully and honestly from a personal
perspective, like the way they are when they are at home or
doing a hobby. Not their
work personality since the persona we all wear when we go to work is
a little more of a public persona, a projection of what we wish the
public to see about us and how to think about us.
In other words, it
is not exactly the real “us”.
Japanese say: “Public face, private face. Two different faces…”
Mr. Tong has a Master’s
in Education in Curriculum Studies.