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Posted by on in Movement and Play
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Champions in school, champions at life. Respect.

Thank you to our Sensei, master teacher for teaching us never-ending, continual improvement. “Kai Zen!”

Karate classes, taught by Sensei, extraordinary meshing of kids and Instructor.

Listen to the children with me, powering up their spirits with the sound of “Kiai”, sounds like kee-eye. Here we go! Outfits on, belts tied, spirits soaring.

Saying no to bullies, but more than that. Ready to enhance balance, build muscle tone, follow directions and master martial arts skills. Watching the kids train, I also notice an unexpected benefit of hand-eye coordination which is a valuable reading skill. I never thought I would see a reading benefit from karate.

Any mention of Karate always reminds me of the classic Karate Kid movies. You know the ones I mean. First and best will always be the original 1984 “Karate Kid”, starring Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio. Recall the new kid in town tormented by bullies, until he is taken under wing by karate master, a humble gardener Mr. Miyagi.

The idea of Sensei is so strong, as we recall vivid images of the wise man instructing the adolescent boy through unexpected training in mindfulness, painting fences, washing cars, preparation for eventual learning martial arts and life skills. Happy endings.

I see our littles at school playing Ninja on varied playground equipment, and Ninja teachers are definitely out there. Too many Ninja Turtles tee shirts to count this year. But this is not the same as the true Sensei.

I believe most teachers are Sensei, in terms of honor, respect, builders of confidence, instructors of skills. In its truest sense, Sensei teachers may have been teaching a long time gaining great wisdom, art and craft. But time is not necessarily the defining factor. Sensei is in all of us.

There’s no time table in becoming Sensei, although it’s said to mean “one before another” and usually refers to a venerable person, greatly experienced in the art.

My Eugene granddaughter Morgan continues to surprise me with her age six interests. We’ve been through classes of gymnastics and ballet. Morgan would like to play soccer, but in Eugene, since children are so used to the rain, their games are outside and Morgan can’t do that, another story sometime.

Morgan kept asking about Karate. It’s not just for boys. Then she found a new home. In her class there are four little boys and she’s the only girl, which makes it pretty cool. She likes it. She’s barely started, but I saw a big difference in only a few sessions.

Morgan’s Sensei, Just like you

Here’s what I notice:

1. Consistent routines, beginning, middle, end of class.

2. Transitions connecting prior and new learning.

IMG 3513 1

3. Checks for understanding continually.



4. Teaches basic Japanese vocabulary through immersion.

    Includes greetings, commands, counting to ten, open and close class.

5. Inspires children to excellence, motivates, builds confidence.

6. Creates a culture of learning and constant growth.

Benefits for Morgan’s class

1. Mental, physical, emotional connections.

2. Learn to focus, concentrate, take turns.

3. Balance. Poses and activities enhance balance.

4. Mindfulness with Intention. Patience.

3. Following rules and commands.

4. Speaking basic Japanese phrases.

5. Exercise and agility training. 

6. Develop a sense of accomplishment.

I love watching Sensei Elida working with the children. With great respect shown, preschool and kinders are already getting ready for their first recital at the beginning of June. They practice being in front of an audience, being judged on correctness of moves, which determines their new level and color of belt.  

Morgan gets dressed at home, ready for immediate action. I missed the last class and was surprised to see a video of the kids sparring. Morgan looks like she is holding her own, with a bigger, more experienced boy. She knows she is strong, coordinated and determined to master karate now.

Morgan is eager to tell about the varied belts and describe what she has to know, and how to do it right to get those belts. Having goals set, practicing at home and bragging rights with the boys at school. Nice.

I heard the Kinders, at least the boys, didn’t believe Morgan was in Karate, that’s for boys. When my daughter Rebecca went to read to the class, she said, “Yes, Morgan is absolutely in Karate”. After all, girls can do whatever they set out to do. And that is quite a life lesson.

I like the idea of calling our nation’s teachers, Sensei. Such dedication, so much love. Perfect.

Morgan now knows how to break out of any grab hold and her Mom told me self-protection is an added benefit of the Karate training. No bullies better get near Morgan now.

As a lefty, I wasn’t sure whether this would impede any of her movements, but so far all good, and as I mentioned, the hand-eye coordination is really helpful.

I am pretty certain Morgan will continue Karate, at least for a while, and these skills and attitudes will always be part of her life.

Her classroom teacher is a Sensei too, so this Kindergarten year has been a great one for Morgan.

When I sit watching the karate classes I see an amazing Sensei, and happy kids engaged and in flow state.

”Owadi-masu”. Let’s end class now.

I hope the young children I teach every day see me as Sensei. At least I know I am giving it my all. “Kiai!”

Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita 



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Modeling the art and craft of teaching reading for 47 years, Mrs. Wirtz taught language arts, speech and reading at all levels preschool-adult, including penal. She served as Pre-school and K-6 Principal. Rita was also a Curriculum Consultant, ESEA, Title I Program Evaluator and literacy trainer. At the university level she taught school administration in the Bilingual Cohort at CSUS and National University, Sacto. Mrs. Wirtz also taught all reading courses for Chapman University for many years in Sacramento and Placerville, Ca., and mentored student teachers. On the national level she was a well known motivational Keynote Speaker and Seminar Leader. Most importantly, Rita walked the talk, teaching with teachers in more than 500 K-12 and special needs classrooms. Rita authored books, publications and Pre- YouTube, videos were filmed by San Diego County Office of Education. Calif. ASCD authored companion book guides, and Calif. school districts correlated her basic skills instruction with State Standards. Mrs. Wirtz' newest book is Reading Champs! Teaching Reading Made Easy, a review of the basic building blocks of English and Reading. Rita is currently teaching in a multi-age, fully incuded preschool, ages 2-8. Find Mrs. Wirtz on Twitter @RitaWirtz, Facebook and website- www.ritawirtz.com.

  • Guest
    Robert Ward Sunday, 21 May 2017

    This is great, Rita. It just proves that good teaching is good teaching, no matter what the environment. I also love how Sensei attends to the needs of the whole child - socially, emotionally, soulfully, and intellectually.

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Guest Friday, 22 March 2019