It's one of the things I miss the most these days, as I've had to take a step back from teaching karate for work-related reasons (only 24 hours in a day, that's a real shame).

It is a wonderful privilege to be able to teach children something you love, and to have those children grow to love the same thing and push themselves to reach their own goals.

The beauty of having kids run to your arms to show you their new belt, or a medal they won, or even a sticker they got at the dentist's office. Kids whose parents tell you do their homework because you asked them to. Kids who may not believe you when you say it's an Official Rule of the Universe that the better you behave in the car on the way to the tournament, the better you perform at the tournament, but behave anyway because why take chances?

I have seen kids go from being 4-year-olds with significant behaviour issues to reasonably pleasant young people. Kids who used to struggle in school (with attention, or reading, or anything) and manage to get better grades. Every day you see real progress being made in so many individual lives. I see kids who used to get in trouble all the time, and who now are being trusted to mentor younger kids.

Teaching kids is not even that hard - you just need to care about what you're teaching, and care about those kids. (Actual knowledge not a bad thing to possess either.) But basically it comes down to this: Everyone wants to be seen, and everyone does better when they know other people genuinely care about them. That's true at any age, even with teenagers who do a good job of looking like they could care less what you think. Shocker: they actually do care what you think. Whatever you're teaching, treat each child like a complete and autonomous person, and show them that you care how they do.

That last part is made harder these days because in many places - like schools - adults aren't allowed to touch children in any way. I understand why - parents are legitimately worried about creeps. I have daughters. I get it. But.

The problem is you can't teach children that way. Me, I hug them, high-five them, pick them up in my arms when they're little. I try to do this in view of the parents, to make sure they're comfortable with it. But man, how you're supposed to teach children without touching them I really don't know. Kids aren't good at abstract concepts. They know you love them when they feel it in your touch.

Kids know when your high-five or your pat on the shoulder is fake. They know when you're just pretending to care. And they respond accordingly.

I had one kid this past weekend, flush with pride at having earned an advanced belt, who hugged me so hard when I told her I was proud of her I was almost worried I wouldn't be able to breathe. Children need to feel loved and appreciated for who they are and for what they do. If you give them that, they'll rise to their full potential.

It's the most beautiful thing in the world to see.