What is your relationship with your students?

fnorfurfoot

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I have heard different opinions on the student/instructor relationship and was wondering what everyone here thinks about it. One person I talked to said that he believed in keeping the relationship professional. Go in, teach the classes, get out. He had this belief that personal feelings can mess up a school.

I think that getting to know your students and hanging out with them at times is beneficial to running a friendly school. I like to hold cookouts and meet at the movies with the class. What are your feelings about this?
 

stickarts

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You can develop friendships but you have to be very careful about establishing and maintaining the boundries.
You each need to know when you are wearing your instructor "hat", business "hat", or friendship "hat".

I have developed friendships within the school but given the troubles I have seen in many schools, and even sometimes in my own, I can understand those that choose not to go that route.

It can be a slippery slope.
 

terryl965

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Friendships are great as long as you set boundaries within that friendship when it becomes teacher/student, this has always been the hardest thing for me. You tend to get close to your students but at the same time you need to keep that distance as well.
 

Kembudo-Kai Kempoka

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I foster an environment that encourages inappropriate touch and rampant nudity.


















Wait. That's not true at all. What the hell am I talking about?
 

Kacey

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You can develop friendships but you have to be very careful about establishing and maintaining the boundries.
You each need to know when you are wearing your instructor "hat", business "hat", or friendship "hat".

I have developed friendships within the school but given the troubles I have seen in many schools, and even sometimes in my own, I can understand those that choose not to go that route.

It can be a slippery slope.

Friendships are great as long as you set boundaries within that friendship when it becomes teacher/student, this has always been the hardest thing for me. You tend to get close to your students but at the same time you need to keep that distance as well.

I agree. Many of my students are my friends, and we socialize outside of class - that's another reason for the use of surnames in class; it helps maintain the distinction. The same goes for my instructor.

As an example, we are having a picnic next month - in the park across the street from my house. We do this every year - it's a chance to hang out and have fun... and this year, also a chance to have a raging water balloon fight!
 

jdinca

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Somewhere in the middle. We're a pretty large school with a bunch of instructors on staff. We're all assigned private students, in addition to teaching group classes.

With the group classes, I keep it upbeat, uptempo and as hard as I push them, I make sure they're having fun. I have a regular group that shows up and although I'm friendly and open, I don't take it past that point.

With my private students, I definitely develop a relationship, especially with the kids. They know I'm going to make them work hard but they also know it's okay to make mistakes and I want them to feel postive about the experience. The kids get a lot of praise in addition. I do keep the relationships friendly but professional.

We do have school functions where teachers and students mingle outside of the school but even then, the instructors remember that in that setting, that's still who they are to the students.
 

bushidomartialarts

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In our school we do a lot to foster a sense of community and family. I go to lots and lots of baseball games, choir concerts, plays and pageants. We have 'family dinners' three times a year and some sort of get together every month.

There's a level of distance needed to be an effective teacher, but that's easy enough to maintain while still being a mentor and friend.
 

stickarts

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I agree. Many of my students are my friends, and we socialize outside of class - that's another reason for the use of surnames in class; it helps maintain the distinction. The same goes for my instructor.

As an example, we are having a picnic next month - in the park across the street from my house. We do this every year - it's a chance to hang out and have fun... and this year, also a chance to have a raging water balloon fight!

We do the same with an annual picnic, periodic movie nights, and an occaisional Japanese dinner!
The family environment is why most people stick around for so long.
 

tshadowchaser

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An occasional get together with students is fine, because you get to know them a little better and see how they react outside of a formal class environment. However getting to close to students can lead to trouble in the school with petty jealousies and favoritism being perceived
 

Shawn

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My classes are run in a completely informal structure. I am friends with the students and there is little division between student and instructor. I'm right there training along with them, I basically just guide the practice session as we all workout together.

No gi's, no belts, no titles.

-Shawn
 

Steel Tiger

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My classes are run in a completely informal structure. I am friends with the students and there is little division between student and instructor. I'm right there training along with them, I basically just guide the practice session as we all workout together.

No gi's, no belts, no titles.

-Shawn

My classes are very similar. My students are my friends but when training it is very clear who is the teacher. I suppose my teaching style is a little harsh but it is not antagonistic or aggressive, and we socialise outside class, but I'm very different there, honest.
 

tellner

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Some authorities say that students learn best in a cooperative, mutually supportive environment. Others say that the best is brought out by cut-throat competitiveness. We split it 50/50 and leave it for the students to figure out which sort of day it's going to be.
 

Last Fearner

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I have heard different opinions on the student/instructor relationship and was wondering what everyone here thinks about it.

There are many ways to convey knowledge to another person. "Buddies" hanging out together, experimenting, and learning as peers is one way. Even if one takes on the roll of the "teacher" there is an atmosphere of contemporaries that lacks a level of discipline, respect, and seniority that I believe is the bedrock of successful Martial Art instruction.

I know that some will say they are casual but have all the discipline and respect of other schools, but it has been my experience (over 30 years) that such informal teaching environments are like building a skyscraper on sand. The first floor or two might hold up, but eventually it will come crashing down. Perhaps it will take a generation or two, and those who began it will not live to see its demise, but it is inevitable.

The Martial Art is unique among all teaching in that what the student learns can kill or harm, without weapons or devices, and often without discipline, self control, or any ethical judgment. I believe it is essential, if you are a dedicated teacher, to be a teacher 24 hrs a day. This does not mean that you are constantly teaching, but it becomes who you are.

Like being a Law Enforcement Officer. You don't just turn it off after your shift, or when you take your uniform off. People who know you, should respect you for the job you have accepted 24/7. You can party with friends, but when they start lighting up a joint in front of you because you are off duty, thinking you won't do anything, an true LEO will still uphold the law.

It is good for an instructor to spend time with students outside of the school, mainly to observe their consistency in living the way they are taught in class (good manners, courtesy, respect - - assuming these things are taught). In my opinion, the role and relationship of the instructor / student should never change. Social activities allow for more friendly conversation, and relaxed environment, but the student should never forget that they are addressing a senior rank, and courtesy should always be extended in all situations.

I have been with Grandmasters at bars when everyone was drinking sake, soju, getting drunk, dancing, and singing Karaoke (a privileged social experience usually not extended to color belts, and typically not to non-Asians). Everyone is relaxed and having fun, but no one forgets who their senior rank is. I have watched young, low ranking Black Belts (4th or 5th Dan) get out of line because they are too drunk, and an 8th or 9th Dan will smack them on the head and verbally reprimand them. They don't dare do anything but bow their head in shame and respond with "yes, sir."

It is dangerous to lead students down a path of "buddy-buddy friendship" with a teacher who needs to command some respect, and instill discipline in that student's life. Martial Art training is life altering, and instructors often need the total commitment, dedication, and willingness to follow leadership, even when they don't understand or agree with the lesson. You do not have to be "strictly business," because this is too cold and removed from your students, but one must be careful not to cross the line, even in social settings, because once a student ceases to respect the relationship, you might never get it back, and bad attitudes can spread like cancer through your school and your community.

A good instructor has a special rapport with each student - inside the school and out. This can grow to a deep affection, and lifelong relationship, but like an adult to their own parent, or a college student to their favorite professor. A buddy system tends to only have a superficial appearance of such, and even if the first generation can pull it off, their successive students often fail to maintain the knack that their buddy-instructor got away with.

This is my opinion, and has been what I have witnessed time and time again. There are those who feel they are the exception to this, but most likely, they are the example that others follow without the same success.

CM D.J. Eisenhart
 
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