It’s half-term this week, which means no teacher training class on Monday night, and no Tai Chi class on Tuesday night. This gives me a week off to work on the class notes for the next half term, and get everything organised for when (not if) my class is inspected.

I’ve been into Staples and picked up three of their excellent new hard-wearing ring binders. At 4.99 each, they’re very expensive, but the new rubber coating and the four-hole binder inside will ensure that my notes survive the effort of being lugged to and from class for 30 weeks every year. All I have to do now is fill them 🙂

Why three binders?

  1. In Year 1 – Beginners’ Tai Chi – I’m teaching my students how to play the form. I already have lesson plans prepared for each of the 30 weeks that they’ll be studying with me; these lesson plans double up as the notes that the students get at the end of each half-term. So, folder #1 will have my copy of the lesson plans, plus additional sheets so that I can scribble down notes about what needs changing for next year.
  2. In Year 2 – Intermediate Tai Chi – the plan is to teach my students the ten key principles behind our form. That’s quite ambitious for a 30 week course! During the summer break, I’ll be working on lesson plans for each of the 30 weeks, and these will go into folder #2, along with the obligatory sheets for scribbling down notes about how to improve the lessons for next year.
  3. The final binder will hold the Individual Learning Plans and attendance records for each of my students. No, I’ve no idea what an Individual Learning Plan is (more on that in a minute), but I do know that it’s something we’re asked to produce when we’re inspected.

Whoever said that UK teachers had too much free time on their hands? 🙂

To be honest, I don’t mind the paperwork as such. I’ve chosen to teach Tai Chi through the Lifelong Learning programme, and that means accepting the paperwork that goes with it. When you’re involved with government (either local or national), bureaucracy is part of its nature. Accepting something’s nature is part of how I practice the Taoist philosophy that sits behind Tai Chi.

What I do mind is just how badly prepared we are for it. There’s a lot of room for improvement, specifically in designing and running a course that provides practical support and advice to new tutors joining the Lifelong Learning programme. We need a detailed induction course that covers a wide range of practical issues that aren’t covered in the teacher training course.

A great example of this are Individual Learning Plans. As best as I can tell, they are not covered at all during the 12 week teacher training course that we all have to attend. (The course is great, by the way, and when the time comes, I’ll be requiring all of my senior students who want to teach Tai Chi to attend). They are definitely not covered in the recommended course textbooks. They are frequently mentioned in Ofsted reports, but they’re not mentioned in the brand new Lifelong Learning UK standards. I was invited to a seminar on ILPs this month, but as I work full-time during the day, it wasn’t possible to attend at all. Thankfully, somewhere on the net, there’ll be the information I need to design an ILP template that I can use with each of my students. But I’m one of the lucky one on the course; I’m comfortable using a computer. I’m not certain how many of my colleagues would be able to track these down online.

If there’s one point Robert absolutely hammered into me (in the nicest possible way, I must quickly add!) about teaching Tai Chi, it’s this: I am to teach what I do, not what I say. The students must be able to look at me and see me doing the very things I’m asking them to learn. If I cannot evidence it, then it doesn’t exist for all intents and purposes. This is why, in my class, we don’t specifically teach anything about the manipulation of chi. We can’t evidence such manipulation. (At this point, fellow Tai Chi players around the world are planning to burn me at the stake for such heresy 🙂 )

The nature of Yin and Yang means that some experiences will be good, and some will be bad. No experience is good all the time, and no experience is bad all the time. There’s always a little bit of Yin in Yang, and vice versa. If we are suitably prepared, we can learn from the bad as well as from the good; but only if we learn to tell one from the other, and to accept both for what they are.

My experience with ILPs helps me understand why Robert’s point about teaching Tai Chi is absolutely spot on, and why it is something that I must never ever deviate from. We can learn from the bad, but given a choice, we’d rather learn from the good.

On a different topic, I’m planning on using next week’s blog entry to talk a bit about the benefits of playing Tai Chi. Whether you already play Tai Chi or not, I hope there’ll be something of interest for you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s still ten more minutes left today for me to get some paperwork done … 🙂