As part of our black belt program, I have developed a class I call, “C.L.A.W.S.©”
This class is to help our kids bridge the gap from being students to being guides, mentors, leaders, and future instructors.
When I was a young girl I took classes at a Carole’s Dance Theatre in Lakewood, CA. I adored my instructors, Carole Leyba (Thompson), Debbie Fishman, and Anita Morales. I took as many classes as my mom could afford, and when I was old enough I helped at the studio answering the phone, assisting in classes, and watching Carole teach.
It was a heaven and a respite from the bullying I suffered through in 7th grade at the hands of Lisa Zadow and her gang of nasty white supremacist friends. (Is it a surprise I got into martial arts all these years later?)
Over the years I’ve watched kids rise in rank and seen two distinct camps, the natural performers who seem to thrive in the spotlight and the more reticent students who assume their role is in the chorus in the background. They all have one thing in common, though, they all looked up to and idolized the older teens who helped them to learn material. I noticed that even the kids who seemed to naturally “get it” that is, how to help, how to be “under the wire” but still very useful, could still use a few pointers and some straightforward cues about what we expect from our junior assistants. I decided, however, that every student deserved a chance to shine and that maybe all it took was some plain and simple instructions about how to help.
After small six week rotations, just under a year of training kids ages 9-12, we are thrilled. Each kid surprises us with their desire to help and be engaged. Even the reticent ones who doubt they will like it, beam up at me and say, “that was really fun!”
Ultimately, I’m getting exactly what I was hoping for, a way to make kids slow down, think about the process of learning in order to help themselves learn and appreciate how far their skills have come….
For example…CLAWS students learn one of the 1st principles of effective instruction: “Tell. Show. Do” Sometimes the most “show-off-y” kid with amazing athleticism will really struggle with the verbal explanation of the nuances of the movement while another student will have great insight into a movement. Sometimes the most shy and unassuming kids will step right up and take control of the room in a way I had never seen before, thus inspiring me to strive to bring out more of this inner tiger.
Today was the first day of a new session and we discussed the ABCs of CLAWS:
A= Attune to the Room. Your job is to help move the class forward and to help Sir to keep the show going with minimal distractions. If Sir is asking everyone to zoom around the room, demonstrate that with enthusiasm. If Sir is asking everyone to sit at the mirror, say “Yes Sir!” with gusto then sit appropriately awaiting instructions.
B= Be a Beacon. The younger students and parents of those students see you acting appropriately at all times. That means no bored distracted looks, no finger nail picking, no hair twisting, just a model young martial artist.
C= Correct Quietly. Sir’s voice is the loudest in the room, your role in CLAWS is to quietly correct behavior by sitting next to the student, whispering softly and demonstrating the correct behavior. In JAWS class we will learn how to be the Junior Assistant and a verbal leader.
I told everyone the importance of arriving early to claim the space as their own. New students will feel that they are walking into your space and will be more likely to listen to your instructions.
I also talked about how to greet students. If they are shy and reticent, go to one knee (get down to their level) and tell them your name. Explain that you are here to help and that you look forward to having fun together. If they are rambunctious and confident, be assertive, say welcome and lead them in.
During the class my helpers did a great job. They were warm, affable, conscientious and enthusiastic .
After class I gave the kids some pointers on how to say your name during introductions (a little louder and maybe lower your voice for authority) and how to spot somersaults. I got their feedback, and we made plans for the next week.
All and all, a great program addition for the school. If you received an invite, please consider bringing your child.