Martial Arts Monday: Student Teachers: Assets & Liabilities

Student Teachers

I remember when I was in 6th grade and my Sifu asked me if I wanted to come in and help him teach a class of younger students. I was thrilled and took the role seriously; He pointed out to me that it would be tough but would be a good experience for both me and the other students. Looking back,  I cannot express how grateful I am to have had that opportunity. Today I would like to share some of my thoughts and experiences about having students help lead classes in Martial Arts schools.


Asset: Student Teachers Become Role Models to Younger Students

Students that begin teaching are asked to start because they represent what the school owner expects  out of all of their students, and they can lead by example. When a student starts to help teach classes, it gives young students someone to look up to and be able to say, “I want to be like that when I get older” or “I want to help out when I get better!” Student teachers are relatable to young students more as peers than a lead teacher would be and it allows for a friendship level of trust built into this dynamic which can greatly motivate students.


Liability: Young Students Follow The Lead Of Student Teachers, For Better or Worse

When you choose your student teachers it is because they are the highest quality students you have. Your goal is to have younger students follow their lead. However, any bad behavior that a student teacher might have can have a negative impact on younger students. For example, if a student teacher is talking on the sidelines while class is going on, this can distracts young students and make them think it is ok to speak while an instructor is running class or giving directions. Clearly it is not okay, and you as the leader/school owner need to explain how those types of habits are detrimental to younger students learning.


Asset: Teaching Develops A Greater Understanding of Forms & Movements

My Kung Fu improved as a student when I started teaching. Suddenly, I had to have an understanding of forms and movements beyond just knowing how to execute it. Now I had to do it, do it well, explain how, and explain why for every move and form. Students looked up to me; I now had to be at my best whenever they were watching, and they were always watching. I got stronger, smarter, and better overall in my martial arts because I started teaching.


Liability: Student Teacher Mistakes Impact More Than Just Them

in order to become truly great at something, you need to make mistakes, learn and grow. The same goes for teachers. We have to make mistakes and be corrected on those errors in order to improve. And when a student teacher makes a mistake, it’s usually when they are teaching a move to another student. The lead instructor then not only has to correct the student teacher, but they also have to re-teach those moves to the student(s) that were incorrectly taught.


Asset: It Helps Grow The Art

Once student teachers grow into lead teachers, they have opportunities. They can co-run their school, or even take over that school if the owner is ready to retire. They can start a plant school with the same school or even start their own school from scratch. I have now been running my own school for a year after spending 18 years at my first school where I learned Kung Fu. The art is now available to a brand new group of people that can learn to love it as much as everyone back home.


Liability: When They Leave Your School

When a leader in your school comes up through the ranks and is leading a good amount of classes, it can leave a hole in your programming if/when they decide to leave. You essentially have to re-train the next generation of instructors. This happened to me when I was entering high school. My instructors that were directly under my Sifu had graduated college and moved on to new careers. My Sifu had to train my fellow class leaders and I to fill those roles and keep the school running at a high standard. Trainings were crucial in this shift being as seamless as possible, and it took time to get to a place where everyone works in cohesion together.


Asset: The Bonds Created In Your Leadership Team Last A Lifetime

Assets and liabilities aside, student teachers are a great way to improve the overall quality of your school. Students helping other students builds strong relationships within the entire program. Student role models add an extra level of comfort to your classes and encourages growth for students and student teachers because it pushes everyone to work harder for each other not just themselves. A strong leadership team can take your school from good to great and help foster relationships for years to come.


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