Some Basic Etiquette for New Students

Over the years we have seen a lot of new students that come through the doors of the school. Let’s face it; it is a little uneasy for both the new student as well as the teacher because of the vast array of information each person brings with them into the situation. I thought it would be helpful to lay out some basic guidelines for new students when they walk into the door and interact with a new teacher.

1.Remember that you are choosing to learn something new, Admit you know nothing about what you are about to do and pay attention.

The fact that you are choosing to learn something new means that you are looking for someone who has experience in their Art/Craft so that you can learn the (new to you) Art and Craft. The teacher knows you know nothing of the material about to be taught; that is why you have walked in the door. So readily admit that you do n’t know anything about what you are about to do. Then open yourself to the experience by paying attention, and providing a clean slate for the teacher(s). Yesterday, I had a great opportunity to go to an Archery Range and learn how to shoot a longbow. The first thing I said to the guy was ” I know nothing about Archery, I would like to know how to start, I think I want to learn with a longbow.” Then I proceeded to give him my full attention as he walked me through the basics and soon I was hitting the target every time. By the loose groupings of the shots, I could see that there was so much to more to learn and practice and that I was very much a beginner.

Right Handed Pull
Left Handed Pull

2.Give the teacher the respect of your full, good natured, attention.

There is a cultural dis-ease of being embarrassed to be a beginner. We strive to have the appearance of mastery without any work behind it. Many people want to appear as if they know more than they do and have a desire to show off to the teacher by telling them all of the books that they have read about the subject, videos that they have watched or doing activities in class they have learned somewhere else. Pretending to show understanding that you have not earned is a disservice not only to the student, who is getting in the way of learning but is also being disrespectful to the teacher by disregarding all of the time, effort and years of them engaging their art. Not only that, but the teacher is giving you time and has prepared information for you to learn and if you get in the way of that information you disrupt everyone else who is trying to learn. So if you walk into a new kung fu class leave your yoga stretches at home, leave your dance moves at home, leave your Taekwondo moves at home, resist the urge to break out your kickboxing you learned from a video and pay attention and do what the teacher asks of you. If you are a jazz guitarist learning to play classical guitar, don’t show off your jazz chops to try and impress the teacher it will only piss them off because they are trying to teach you classical guitar. If you are joining a meditation class and decide to quote Thich Nath Hanh, Alan Watts, or your Head Space App to your teacher, you will not be showing how enlightened you are, but you will be showing the teacher that you are an ass who cannot pay attention. (Insert Teacher eye roll here) The key here is giving the teacher your full attention and respect and bring a clear mind for the teacher to teach. If you don’t want what is being taught, don’t come back. It will save everyone time. However learning anything new requires that you engage life differently and your dislike of a subject may just be good ole stubbornness in the face of change. So you might want to give it time to seep in and change you. Even if it makes you uncomfortable.

3.Practice what you have learned from your teacher. The way they have asked you to practice.

There is nothing quite so disheartening to a teacher than a student that doesn’t practice, chew on, or engage the steps laid out by the teacher, that is disrespectful of their time.

There are Three basic parts to learning anything. Hear, Engage and Experience. You hear, which means you pay attention to what is being taught, you engage, which means you engage and practice the information and you then experience it in your practice. This formula is far more than intellectual understanding alone it is directly experiencing what is being taught, by hearing, and engaging. Sometimes this takes years of practice, to learn what was being repeatedly said to you. When you do this your teacher has something to work with, and a conversation can occur, and your learning can be shaped and molded so that the true experience can be brought out in what you are doing.

So these are three basic rules of etiquette when going to a teacher to learn something new. It respects you as the student wishing to learn something new; it respects the teachers time, effort and years of training, and it respects the experience of others that happen to be learning with you.


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