By Christopher Rappold
Finding out that a student is going to be leaving your school is never fun. If you care about making an impact on someone’s life and sincerely enjoy teaching, news of a departure can create some sleepless nights. While there is no magic answer to ensure this never happens, your time will always be well-spent ensuring that the highest percentage of your students remain dedicated to their training at your facility.
As I look back over 25 years of teaching, I do so with pride in what our team has produced. But, like you, I’ve been stung with the unexpected news of a student discontinuing his or her training more than once. Since we preach, “You can either get bitter or get better,” I offer the following preventative measures designed to keep such surprises to a minimum.
1. Know Your Students Beyond the Mat
It’s easy to forget that our students have lives outside the few hours they spend training with us each week. They have school classes, careers, families, friends and other interests.
By taking the time to show sincere interest in what’s going on in the students’ lives outside the school, you are better able to serve them when they are in the school.
I had a student who I knew was going to return from a track meet prior to entering class. Instead of having him participate in the typical fitness activities the rest of the class was doing, I assigned an instructor to do some partner stretching. This would serve his body better than more endurance training at that moment.
2. Know Your Students’ Physical Limitations and Preferences
The blended program we teach is designed to be safe and functional. That being said, not all movements and techniques are perfect for all body types. I have a student who has degeneration in both knees. If there’s going to be any intense impact in class, I select an alternative activity to keep his learning and progress on par with his classmates.
3. Know What “Repetition Club” Your Students Are In
I have a few students who can see a skill one time and their body naturally picks it up. I have others who need to see it five to 10 times before they get it. I have others who need to see it more than 20 times before I can recognize within them a look of confidence.
By knowing who picks up things quickly and who requires more exposure until they have it, you ensure everyone gets what they need.
4. Stay in Tune with Your Students’ Progress and Expectations
Our organization formally checks our students’ material every month to ensure they are making the kind of progress we expect. It’s also important that they are communicated with to ensure that they are making the kind of progress they want.
There have been occasions when students were making great progress through our eyes, but the lessons weren’t meeting their changing goals and expectations. In hindsight, this could have been avoided just by regularly asking each student, “Are you making the kind of progress with your training that you hoped for?” Or, “Is there an area of your martial arts and fitness training that you would like to focus on and improve?”
5. Keep the Relationship Strong
The quality of your school comes from the quality of the relationships you have with your students. We are in the service and relationship business. It’s a strong relationship based on trust, respect and rapport. This helps our students push past their comfort zones to overcome the physical and mental challenges of training. When they feel you believe in them and care about their progress and well-being, magic happens with their potential.
Everyone needs someone to believe in them more than they do in themselves. It is often this belief that propels students to push beyond what they believed were their limitations. Keep the coaching, mentoring and instructing relationship very strong.
Most challenges that lead to students quitting their training come from a lack of communication and anticipation of needs. By fully honoring the relationship at the highest level, you tap into the power of having a crystal ball. You see upsets and obstacles coming before your students even know there is an issue. Always staying one step ahead will enable you to retain your students longer and have more fun developing their potential.
Chris Rappold can be reached for questions or comments at [email protected]
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