Summer vacation for teachers is usually a time to watch a lot of Netflix, relax, or travel. Well in addition to doing all of those things, I decided to learn something new. While back home in NY, my bestie persuaded me to go with her to boxing class. At first I was quite intimidated, nervous, and afraid. I didn’t know what to expect and I wasn’t sure if I would survive the 1-hour boxing class. Luckily, I barely survived my first two classes, but still continued on. Fast forward a few weeks later, and many classes in, I found myself enjoying the sessions and ended up finding a boxing gym to join here in Singapore.
It’s always a good experience when you get to be in the role of the student. It reminds me of how my students must feel in class and it makes me reflect on my role as the teacher. After learning how to box, I was reminded of a few key things that relate to my work as a teacher.
1. Always differentiate- Provide scaffolding and extensions for your students. During my first few classes, as the newbie, I was much slower and it took me a while to understand all the terminology, moves, and keep up with the regulars. I always appreciated it when the instructor would give scaffolds or options to the moves. When we did our warm-ups and core work-out, the instructor would give “easier” or “harder” options for some of the exercises. This really helped me and it made me feel like I could adjust the workout to meet my needs. In the classroom, find small and easy ways to support or challenge the students. It might be less questions or it might be providing a different way to show their work. I’ve been consistently thinking about ways to extend some of the work that I’ve been giving students and giving the students choice to extend their learning.
2. Model, model, model- This was huge for me. I am much more of visual learner and I have difficulty processing auditory directions. I really appreciated it when the instructor would show the specific boxing combination in addition to stating it. Some instructors would only repeat the combination once or twice, and I would get lost. I was much more successful in keeping up when the instructor would repeat boxing combo a few times. Also, it was much easier for me to get the combination when I saw the instructor model it a few times. I was reminded of how many times we might give instructions just once and then expect our class to get it. Visuals and repeated instructions will help you get greater engagement and provide more clarity.
3. Individualized feedback is key- When you start learning a new sport it’s crucial that you get feedback on your form and basics. You want to have a good foundation in order to get better and not learn bad habits. I always appreciated when the boxing instructors would come around to our bags, and give quick tips and feedback on my form. I noticed that some instructors would rarely come around and give you feedback even if the class was not full. As classroom teachers, it’s important that we continue to give our students quick and individualized feedback when they are working independently or in groups.
4. Allow for creativity- One of the things that I liked about the boxing sessions was when the teachers gave us rounds where you can freestyle. It allowed us the freedom to practice combos and work on specific things we wanted to. It also added an element of creativity. As classroom teachers, we need to remember to give students some freedom and creativity to be in charge of their learning. Whether it’s weekly genius hour or i-time, allow students the chance to study or learn what they are passionate about and be impressed by their creativity when given choice.
5. It’s all about relationships- One thing that I appreciated was having friends to go to the boxing classes with. I think that it would have been harder to continue if I did it by myself. Also, I appreciated it when the instructor knew my name and made that small extra effort. Obviously in our classrooms we know all the names of our students, but I think we can make extra efforts to get to know them more deeply. Whether it’s eating lunch with them, having them write letters to you, or sharing in morning meeting, it’s important to find out what is going on with them at home and outside of school. I was also reminded that I always enjoyed the boxing classes more when I was next to my friends and got to partner with them. This reminded me that at times, we should let our students choose their own partners to work with.
Have you tried learning something new recently? If yes, how did being a student make you feel?