Monday, June 25, 2012

Please, please, please can I test?

Here are three test-related questions instructors hate to hear:

  • How come my name is not on the test list.
  • That other student and I usually test together, why is he allowed to test and not me?
  • Pleeeeease can I test?

You can imagine the difficult situation both the instructor and the student are in. One wants to test, the other doesn’t think it’s a good idea.

As a note to instructors, no student should ever discover that their expectations for testing are incorrect. Before you post a test list, you should consult with any students who might think they are due, when you know they are not ready.

In most larger schools with formal programs, testing occurs at regular intervals and students pretty quickly understand the expectations. While some of the younger children might not figure it out, their smarter parents do.

Occasionally, it will happen that a test will be scheduled and someone’s name won’t be on the list because the instructor doesn’t feel they are ready. So let me very clear. There is only one reason why a student is not ready to test. Insufficient practice. Period.

Maybe there are good reasons for the insufficient practice. Illness. Traveling. Overcommitment (cough, cough). OK, so that last one is not really a good reason. But regardless of the reason, a student should not test unless they are ready. Ever.

Do... not... ask... the... instructor... if you (or your little darling) can test anyways because:

  • You / the child was sick
  • She's had a rough time in school
  • Well, with soccer and Mathletics, and CCD, and swimming....
  • The instructor didn't teach him everything
  • Work has been crazy
  • It's hard and everyone makes mistakes

But, one might ask, won’t missing a test, cause the student to suffer low self-esteem and reduced confidence; won’t they feel cast out?

The confidence that comes from martial arts is not based on hollow platitudes, it comes from actual achievement earned through effort and rigorous repetition. I am not Mr. Rogers and I will not say that you are perfect just the way you are - you need to work, get stronger, faster, have better balance, more precision, better judgement, and better health. THOSE will improve one’s self confidence because they are real, and can be demonstrated.

If you feel you are ready to test (or your child is), you can ask your instructor, but be respectful and accept his answer. Better yet, rather than asking, demonstrate your readiness. Execute your hyung (forms / patterns/ kata) without hesitation or looking around. Don’t interrogate, Demonstrate.

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