Chris MaresA Teacher Who Made a Difference

by Chris Mares.


Perhaps you are expecting me to write about a fellow language teacher who made a difference to me. I could, after all, because a lot of teachers have influenced me positively and made a difference. But I’m not going to write about a language teacher, I’m going to write about my Tae Kwon Do Master, George Manlove. 

Our group met twice a week and consisted of both students with black belts and students who were complete beginners. Despite this range we were taught as a single class. 

We would start out with a series of exercises and stretches that were similar each class. They were not too demanding and anyone could pick them up quite quickly, including complete beginners. We would count in Korean and Master Manlove would call on the more experienced students to lead the count. 

Even on my first day I could tell I was fortunate to have an excellent teacher who provided both structure and direction and included all students in the class. The model was very much that of an apprentice with a skilled master. 

And there was no doubt we were being taught by a master. He noticed everything but would only comment when necessary and was always sure that all his students got feedback. 

As a teacher myself, I became captivated by Master Manlove’s style. He had presence and bearing and was always in control. His equitable approach and obvious skills resulted in a great respect from the students. We knew that our Master would take us as far as we wanted or were able to go. 

Master Manlove would stand at the front of the class, facing us. The students were assembled in rows according to their belt color, black belts at the front, beginners at the rear. 

Master Manlove would model all the moves and the students would do as he did, as best they could. Students then received feedback according to their level. 

At certain points Master Manlove would have students break into groups to practice different skills or to simply spar. Usually the more skilled students would be asked to work with small groups of less skilled students. In this sense, some of the teaching was delegated. However, Master Manlove ensured that he visited all groups and gave everyone feedback. 

The tone of the practice was always one of deference and respect. Master Manlove was attentive to what everyone was doing and all he asked was that everyone treat each appropriately and try their hardest. He emphasized the value of regular practice, not just attending class. 

Master Manlove taught us that Tae Kwon Do was a discipline of both the body and mind. Our version was non-contact so all punches and kicks were pulled. Any contact, especially if hard, was viewed as demonstrating a lack of skill and self-discipline. 

Master Manlove’s manner of teaching showed us the importance of humility and respect. We were also taught to help others as best we could, to put away the mats we had used, and to return the room to the state we had found it in or better if it had been messy. 

Tae Kwon Do is far more than self-defense, it is a practice based on self-discipline and effort. The more you put in, the more you get out. We learned the importance of stretching and breathing and the importance of one’s bearing. In short, Master Manlove’s approach was both humanistic and holistic. It impacted every aspect of each student’s life in some form or other. 

At the end of class the students would gather in a circle to repeat a parting phrase together in Korean before we were released. 

This is what I learned from Master Manlove: 

* The teacher is the Master while students are apprentices. 

* Learning must become a regular practice. 

* Students must respect themselves and show respect for others. 

* The teacher can expect to have students of differing skill levels in one class. 

* The students themselves are a resource. 

* A class needs to have a shape – a beginning, a middle, and an end. 

* All students must be included and feel included. 

* Students can only learn new skills that are just beyond their reach. 

* Feedback must be useful. 

* Instructions must be clear. 

* The teacher must hold students accountable for their actions. 

* The teacher must be encouraging and consistent. 

* A class can be purposeful and fun. 

* Every now and again switch things up and do something different. 

* The teacher must be a model in all things. 

Master Manlove taught me about presence. He demonstrated that language was not always necessary to run a class. He modelled inclusiveness and fairness. All that mattered was effort on behalf of the students. He would teach each person at their level, offering only pointers that they were able to follow. 

Master Manlove is a true master, and in my life he made a difference for which I am, in all humility, grateful. 

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Chris Mares

Chris Mares is a teacher, teacher trainer, and materials writer. He is director of the Intensive English Institute at the University of Maine, and has coauthored several popular ELT course books.

One thought on “”

  1. Another important aspect is that everyone works toward the performance: upcoming tournament, upcoming exam to advance to the next belt, self defense, philosophical principal, etc… regardless of the level. Every aspect of a class has a purpose for all learners.

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