Inferior Imitator

ep·i·gone n. A second-rate imitator or follower, especially of an artist or a philosopher.

Friday, October 31, 2008

I was Right - Now What?

I was right about the approach: last night, the first thing I did was lay out the expectations. Testing is six weeks away, there are only five classes left after this one, this is what you need to know, we need to buckle down and work hard and be quiet while instructors are teaching and if we do, we'll have time for games at the end of class. I haven't seen a class do so well this semester. We even did line drills, which are the hardest thing for kids to do and not talk, and they were quiet. V showed up to teach last night (she's only really scheduled for Mondays), and I thought it was a great opportunity to point out the difference in results. But when I talked to her about it, she said "Oh? I wasn't paying attention." and pretty much dismissed me.

Now I've had "issues" with V. in the past - she wears her sleeves rolled up, which is not the proper way to wear a uniform, and she was dismissive of me when I mentioned it. While that rankled me, I mentioned it to the head instructor and let it go, because I didn't feel it was worth pursuing. But yesterday I ran into a parent of a couple of the kids - long time participants and really good kids - and she expressed her concern to me as well, because the boys want to quit because they don't like her. That reinforced my impression that V. relies too much on punishment and not enough on discipline, and that the kids aren't reacting well. These are my kids and I'm not going to let it go.

I think I'm going to try one more time to talk to her, and be a little less diplomatic in my approach. I don't have high hopes given my experience with her, but on the other hand, I didn't mention that a parent had talked to me, either. I want to fully make sure she understands the depth of my concern before I talk to either Norpel or Ashton. Wish me luck.

Edit: I realized I wanted to talk a bit more about my teaching philosophy in this post...I rely more than most on positive reinforcement. I try to offer compliments on a job well done as much as I do correction. I don't do a good job of remembering whom I've complimented and whom I've corrected, and I've been working on trying to make sure that each student gets a good balance of each, and not just the class as a whole. I try to notice when a student has improved - like last night I mentioned to Matt how much his front stances have improved, and he just glowed. I try to compliment when a student realizes he or she made a mistake and corrects it without prompting. I also say "I can tell you've been practicing that" - and the kid is proud because his or her hard work paid off, both in the form of improved techinque and recoginition of the time and effort. I know this works, because I see improvement, and I see other kids work harder and correct themselves when I offer a compliment to one of their classmates.

So when someone else comes in with the complete opposite teaching style - yelling and excessive pushups as punishment for not obeying her expectations that I don't think she's established appropriately for that particular age group - to the extent that kids want to quit after two of her just makes me sick to my stomach.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The 4th Tenet

In Tae Kwon Do, one of the first things you learn are the five tenets: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverence, Self-Control, and Indomintable Spirit. As martial artists, we are to practice the tenents both inside class and out. Last night, the kids were really having trouble with the fourth tenet, self-control. Too much talking while the instructors were trying to teach, talking back, complaining, not following instructions, and in general having a poor attitude. I think we have been letting these things slide a bit this semester, mostly because there are just so many new kids, and we let some things slide with new kids as they are reminded of and get used to the rules. The problem is that because we let new kids slide, the more experienced kids have been sliding with them and being poor examples.

I understand the difficulty of following the fourth tenet. In some ways, it's the most difficult of the five to follow. I find it relatively easy to be kind, to be honest, to not give up, and to believe in myself, but when it comes to controlling my actions and keeping my temper, it's just a little bit harder. Not just in my love/hate relationship with food, but that's the foremost one that comes to mind, because I can point to the times when my head tells me to stop stuffing myself, but find myself eating anyway and hating myself for not stopping.

Part of self-control is knowing what your limits are. I know it's easier for me to eat no Halloween candy than to stop at one, and I know it's easier for the kids to not talk at all than to know what it means to talk quietly. I also think an important part of self-control is sometimes allowing yourself out of those self-imposed limits. Sometimes you just need a reminder of why you set those limits in the first place. I treated my body like crap this last weekend, and it rebelled. I can't think of a way it didn't rebel, and let me tell you, this has been the easiest two days of staying within my limits I've ever had.

So I'm going to apply these lessons to Thursday's classes, and see if I can't head off Monday's problem. I don't particularly like the way Monday's problem was handled (and I'm not sure I like V.'s teaching style in general but that's another post all together), so since I'm in charge of Thursdays, I'm handling it differently. I'm almost positive it's a matter of reminding the kids about our expectations for their behavior. We'll see if I'm right.


Monday, October 27, 2008

My First WD Party

There's something jet set about flying to California for the weekend. I really, really wish I could have stayed longer, but I guess it will just have to serve as whetting for the next one. I'm sure I will leave much out, but hopefully between the lot of us, those who are interested will get the whole story. Or at least the part of the story that's not staying in LA. There will also be no pictures with this post, because I have yet to find my camera, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it is still at Cassy's.

My welcoming party consisted of the Other Amanda and Cassy. I saw Amanda first, so I think that was completely appropriate that my first WDer in person was the one with whom I share a name. All I really remember of the first evening was pizza and chatting and getting used to British accents. Oh, and a sing-a-long to Doctor Horrible.

Saturday morning started off with a trip to IHOP. I promptly demonstrated my maturity by building a tower of cream packets while we waited for our food. We walked down to the beach on the way back. My jeans got wet all the way up to my knees, so they went into the washer as soon as we got back. The water was cold, but the sand and sun were fantastic. Cassy took the Brit contingent to Trader Joe's and Bath and Body Works, and I went along soley for the purpose of listening to British accents exclaim over American goods.

There was some knitting while we waited for other contingents to arrive, and once people got there, all I remember is playing fetch with Sam (he threw and I fetched, he's much too smart to be the other way around) and the Ring of Fire. Now, Ring of Fire is a lot like Three Man, and I still haven't lived down the time I played that with Josh and Brian. This time was only marginally better, but only because I do remember most of the night, which included both a Doctor Horrible and an OMWF sing-a-long. I'm sure I was loud and obnoxious, and I think I can go another five years without drinking that much again. I am no longer young enough for that kind of thing.

Sunday I was hungover and had to go home. Double blow! Plus, my plane sat on the tarmac for two hours before even taking off, so it was 11:30 before I even got out of Chicago. Needless to say, I was very, very tired this morning.

Reading this all back, it sounds very boring, but it was anything but. It's even more fun reading things people have written, because I now have their voices and cadences in my head. Like, I never would have guessed the other Amanda talked so fast. ;) My only regret is that I didn't start going to parties a long time ago. Needless to say, I'm going from now on. There were even thoughts flittering about on how I might go about hosting one.

Now, to find that camera...

Friday, October 17, 2008


A long time ago (2002), in a galaxy far, far away (my living room), I was vegging in front of the TV after work, channel surfing. I stopped on a scene where a child in a cage was being lifted into the air, and in the next scene the child was gone. I was a little confused as to what happened to the kid, and the next episode of the show was on next, so I decided to keep watching. That decision changed my life. That sounds dramatic, but it's true.

The show was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and was in reruns on FX, and I devoured the episodes. I wanted to know more, so looked online for resources and ended up joining the Watcher's Diary (WD), the forums at Buffy Guide. It wasn't the talk about the show that kept me there long after the show went off the air. It was the people. They made me laugh, they challenged my thinking, they became my friends. I don't think I can put into words what they mean to me, but they know, because they feel the same way. Suffice it to say I wouldn't be the same person I am today without them.

So, six years to the month from when I registered with the WD, I'm finally going to meet in real life some of the people I have only known online. If I look over at my sidebar, fifteen of those people I know from the WD. Someday I hope to meet all of them. For now, I'm just really, really excited to be meeting some of them. I'm so giddy, I can hardly believe it's only a week away.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Perils of Dusk

So it seems that the biggest problem with riding through the country at dusk is that by the time you get home, your helmet looks like a frog threw up on it:


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Na-na, Boo-boo!

There are days I absolutely love my job, and my next-door neighbor gives me the best projects to work on. He got hooked up with this outfit that wanted to sell him a tax scheme, and he asked me for a second opinion. I brushed off my mad tax research skillz, and along with the correspondence with the Iowa Department of Revenue the sales guy himself provided me, I proved that the scheme won't work in Iowa. Although it will cost more in taxes now, I saved my client some fees and a possible reversal of tax position later where he'd have to pay the taxes anyway.

I really shouldn't delight so much in schadenfreude - I make mistakes, too. But so far, this guy is holding stubbornly to his position when I've so obviously punched a hole in his scheme. I do feel sorry for the other Iowans this guy has sold this tax position to. There could even be a case for tax fraud, given that email from the Department of Revenue shows he should have known it wouldn't work. That just makes me grin. Suppose it's my German heritage, or that I just take disproportionate glee in proving other people wrong?