Archive for the ‘dojo management’ category

Should assistant instructors be paid?

July 16, 2017

A colleague from South Africa asked this question in response to our post, The Role of Assistant Instructors:

I have a brown belt, whose father has, after I gave him one month free as gratitude for his assistance now asked that I actually pay him per week for his assistance. I have never heard of this and was quite shocked (as his dad was also an old regime karateka). How would you treat this and do you actually pay assistant instructors?

I have some opinions myself, which I will share, but I’d love to hear from others, so please comment!

I come from a traditional point of view in which students are required to do assistant instructing as a part of their training. It’s quite valuable for the student, and it can be quite helpful for me… but it can equally be of concern. These assistants, lacking the judgment and experience of a seasoned instructor, are frankly, at times, as likely to lose a student as to help them. To ensure one doesn’t lose students due to bad handling by inexperienced assistants, one must provide training, instruction and supervision to those assistants. Sometimes you must do this on the fly during class, when you see things going awry. One could easily make the case they should pay extra for the privilege, rather than being paid. In any case, I always hope my students will appreciate the gift of training and be humble about their own abilities and position.

On the other had we do want to appreciate our helpers. A colleague of mine lets his helpers earn scholarship points toward training camps and seminars. I’m sure others have creative ways of showing appreciation (please post!).

You must have appreciated your assistant’s help, in wanting to give him a free month. Now the father has put you in an awkward position. I suggest you go back in time (ha ha), and create an assistant instructor program in which you state clearly what is desired and expected from assistants, set learning goals for them, and make it clear that while they are helping, they are also students. Then perhaps set up a system of rewards that you feel are appropriate, which show appreciation, but which don’t promote the idea that every helper should be paid. Set this forward for all now-and-future helpers. And decline to pay this fellow, while stressing how much you do appreciate the help they provided. Offer to let them continue on your newly-defined program, and be prepared for the dad to be unhappy.

That would be my advice – but what say the rest of you out there?

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Those Vital Dojo Members: The Parents

December 4, 2012

253881_2063296270822_5229577_nThe most important members of your children’s program might just be the parents. After all, it’s parents who sign kids up, pay the tuition, drive them to class, support their practice, and decide if & when they may quit!

Supportive parents give a tremendous boost to a school, both in practical terms (helping out at the dojo) and by creating a positive dojo culture. In rare cases, “nightmare” parents can have the opposite effect: Think “stage parent” interrupting class with their own instructions; argumentative parent questioning the instructor in front of the kids, or disputing a decision about tests and rank; or just, thoughtless parent talking loudly on a cell phone while letting your student’s younger siblings run amok.

A colleague recently asked about dealing with parents: How do instructors handle all the issues we just listed? I’ll toss out a few specific questions, but feel free to post on any aspect of working and communicating with those vital members of your dojo community.

1. Parents don’t necessarily have a clear idea of martial arts values and etiquette when they first register their child. How do you communicate your values and expectations to new parents? through written material? website? conferences?

2. How do you handle “stage parents” and etiquette violators? (Clearly, it requires some tact!)

3. Do you enlist parental involvement in classes or dojo events? How does that work?

4. Do you talk with parents about dealing with those times when a child doesn’t want to come to class? What do you tell them?

5. Do you have a “model parent” – or have you dealt with a “nightmare parent?” Tell us about him or her.

These are such important questions for a successful dojo; I look forward to hearing some great advice.