Catch Them Doing Something Right – More on Teaching

Receiving criticism can be useful for one’s development. Someone else can often see flaws in your execution from a better perspective and offer insights into how to overcome your most important challenges. However many live their life in a constant state of self-criticism. They see everything they do for its flaws; adding your points on top of them, as insightful as they are, may not be the most constructive tool you can offer to move them toward success.

I teach swordplay, which is a biomechanically focused activity. It takes years to do any particular form or technique without mechanical flaws. I could spend all of my time citing physical corrections for any of my students but will it be as impactful as I want? While I’m offering corrections to each of my students class after class, I may very well be grinding away their belief in their ability to do something right. I may also be destructively taking their attention away from things I need them to retain in their form, their strengths, while they put all of their attention into flaws I’m citing.

One of the more powerful tools I can employ as a teacher is to help a student recognize where they are doing things right. Citing strengths can be challenging as a teacher — it often seems easier to spot the flaws but by emphasizing places of strength you not only bolster a student psychologically you allow them to build a place of foundational strength.

I’m not trying to stroke their egos with kind words, I genuinely use my critical eye to spot strengths in their technique. I ask students to execute drills and exercises that require they do something right to succeed, and then when they do I catch them: “That is exactly where you want your arm to be!” “Your knee is at the exact correct alignment.” “You’ve got it, now do it just like that three more times.”

So use your expertise of a technique’s foundation whether it be in a physical or mental skill and acknowledge the strengths of your students. This will not only help build your students inside and outside, it will help you build yourself as an instructor.