I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March. You should do it too! Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing!
E is feeling shy. He has watched his brother and sister in Tae Kwon Do class, at tournaments and during belt tests. He has watched Master Y tell the class they are doing a great job, and he has watched Master Y give a little serious talk to the class when they need to practice. He is worried about what nickname he might get, since his brother has been called roadkill and dumpster. But, he knows that Master Y has promised not to give him a nickname yet, so he has finally agreed to take a trial Tae Kwon Do class. Nervous and dressed in a hand me down uniform, he jumps out of the car, but steps away before we reach the door.
“I’m not going.” He says, and his face is so worried, I want to tell him he doesn’t have to. But instead I lead him in, and we bow. One of the teachers comes over and says hello. They walk on the mat, but suddenly he is back, his face buried in me, crying.
“You can do this! You’ll have fun. Take a deep breath. Let’s go.” I lead him back to the group.
I smile and hide a laugh as he attempts some of the warm-ups. We will have to work on jumping jacks and sit ups at home. He spends the rest of the class in a small group of new, young students and Mr. Thought and I watch.
Every time I stay and watch a Tae Kwon Do class, I reflect on how it compares to my classroom. The most obvious things I notice are the signs of respect and rule following. The “Yes, Sirs” and the “Yes, Ma’ams,” the possibility of extra sit ups if you are disrespectful, and the way that Master Y looks at you when you really mess up. His eyebrows become scrunched up, lip curled sarcastically. You never know what he is going to say.
It might be easy to glance quickly and think that the Tae Kwon Do teachers are overly strict, almost rude or even disrespectful to the students. There are nicknames given to students that don’t sound very nice, and public displays of sarcastic humor directed at individuals. When H answers a question with “Practice?” Master Y feigns shock and says, “I can’t believe that word just came out of your mouth! Am I hearing things? My ears must not be working.” He shakes his head and calls on someone else.
But when you widen your lens, the love and care are actually the biggest things, right there in the forefront of this class. Praise is given when it’s earned, and it is given for effort and practice. Students are corrected quickly, but not with anger or judgement. The black belts walk around correcting stances, punches, kicks by simply putting the student’s hand, foot, leg where it should be. A student who forgets to add “Sir” is simply reminded to do it. Nobody shouts, “You will respect me!”
I don’t quite know what to do with the differences that I’m noticing, but as I am busy reflecting, class is over. The students are called to cool down, take attendance and recite the school’s tenets:modesty, perseverance, self control, indomitable spirit, courtesy and integrity.
E runs over, a smile on his face. “Did I do a good job?”
As E gets a gatorade, Master Y comes up to ask us what we think, will E sign up? We tell him that we will talk it over at home to see what he wants to do.
But, a few minutes later, I ask “What do you think? Do you want to sign up for regular class?” He does. And, he doesn’t want to wait to call later. So he and his brother and sister walk back to the office to tell Master Y the great news.
H gives E his funny fake nose/eyebrows glasses as a reward for being brave, and as we walk out, Master Y smiles and says, “I have a nickname picked out for you already. Groucho!”