So why am I telling you about boxing? I think there are some powerful lessons for teaching and my classroom.
First, I didn't know anyone else there. The instructor made no introductions. Nor did he ask if anyone was a beginner, had any injuries, etc. I think at the elementary level we typically do a great job of planning "getting to know you" activities. But it's a great reminder about all the things people need in order to feel comfortable. We need to feel known, understood, and conversely, know our instructor and the goals of the lesson/course.
The first time I attended, there was very little guidance or explanation of the activities. I tried to ask a person near me, but he shrugged and said, "Just punch the bag." Thanks.
The instructor wasn't much better. I'm sure he knew I was a beginner, even though he didn't ask. And I'm sure it's part of the "boxing culture," but his instructions were terse and gruff. He barked, "If you don't stop taking a step backwards, I'm going to put a rock on your foot."
I know none of us would ever say something like this to a student, but it is a good reminder that students MUST have buy in to our goal in order to have a sense of purpose and security.
The second time I attended, I asked a girl who clearly had attended before for guidance. She was wonderful. She explained WHY we were doing certain activities. She gave great tips and talked to me at my level. This was another great reminder that someone who has more recently learned a skill is often a better teacher than an instructor who learned the lesson/activity long ago.
At the end of each class, there was time to practice the punching bag with a partner. This actually made me anxious every time. Not only was there the fear of, "What if no one picks me?" But I was also wary of partnering up with someone of a much different level. To be with the more advanced students meant I would embarrass myself with my inexperience. As I attended more, I also didn't want to be with a first-timer, because that meant I would spend the whole time helping them with what to do.
How often have I been guilty of assigning a higher student with a lower or vis versa? What a great reminder of how important it is to have students work with a peer near their level for the best learning to occur.
While I may not be ready to step into the ring ANYtime soon, I am grateful for the lessons learned from my weeks in boxing class. It's just as helpful as any PD I have done this summer and will certainly impact my classroom for years to come. And not just because I can intimidate the troublemakers!