This past fall, William and Charlie decided that karate might be interesting, and they both joined a club that meets in town.They have been loving it, and now that I have gotten more accustomed to watching them sparring, I am enjoying it, too. Their Sensei is great woman that they both hated after the first night, and have loved ever since. She is strict, holds high expectations of them, and doesn't tolerate any silliness for the kids (or the parents either, for that matter).
She has reinforced to me how great a disservice we do to children by assuming that they are incapable. Of course children are, well, children. They have had only limited years of life experience, may not be clear on the social expectations of different situations, and have less experience in managing their energy and impulses than most adults. But not knowing what is expected is a completely different spot to be in than not being able to comply. The first few classes with Sensei, the boys were hesitant, a bit confused, and sore from the extra push ups that she hands out when the kids miss step. Rather than being turned off by the experience, though, they both noticeably focused their attention on figuring things out. They were all eyes and ears, watching and listening to Sensei and the other students until they picked up on the expectations regarding their behavior that were clear, although not clearly spoken.
By not stopping the class and explaining things to the 'new kids', Sensei communicated to them her faith in their ability to figure things out on their own. Her approach shifted the focus from confidence in her abilities as a teacher, to their abilities as students. It is a subtle shift, but one that came across loud and clear to the boys. They both approach their karate practice and their involvement in class with a whole different level of respect and maturity than I have seen in other clubs or classes. It shows up in everything that they do there, from helping out the new, new kids, to the respect and deference that they offer Sensei and the more advanced students. Most importantly, it shows up in themselves - in the confident way that they hold themselves, and the attentive way that they take direction and practice their new stances and moves. The bar was set high, they reached it, and they know it.
Two very proud new yellow-stripe belts.