There are many articles out there along this line, ranging from how businesses end up losing their best employees, to how teachers fail their students. In this offering I am going to list what I feel are the ten best ways to be sure your students will quit. They are listed in no particular order because this is really a bit of free flow writing.
1. Waste their time. We have all worked somewhere that our bosses at some time made us feel that they had a complete disregard for our time. Meetings that seemed pointless, staff development that ended up looking like nothing more than busy-work, and so on. Because this is a common experience, what on earth is any martial arts instructor thinking when he or she fails to place a value on the time the student is giving us – not only giving us but actually paying us to fill! Start your classes on time, give the students what they signed up for and never enter a class without a lesson plan for that class! From start to finish, the class should be what the student signed up for, and nothing else. If you are using the old filler of karate dodge ball to make it to the end of class, your planning was poorly done.
2. Teach without heart. This one drives me nuts because if you are teaching martial arts, and getting paid to teach martial arts, you are living a dream that nearly every martial artist can relate to. That passion, that from-the-heart feeling should come through in every class you teach, or you are in the wrong profession.
3. Continue trying to sell them on your style after they have already signed up. This still irritates me to no end. Once a person has signed up for your classes, any further marketing of your class to that student is wasted and a sign of insecurity that the student will pick up on at some point. Learn to recognize when the sale is made and the teaching must begin.
4. Trash talk other styles and/or other local instructors. In the same category of letting insecurities show, why waste time trying to throw other instructors under the bus. With the exception of those outright frauds and attempted cult leaders, live and let live. Constant trash talking is as clear a sign of insecurity as is the constant need to have students say how great you are.
5. Nickle and Dime them to death. Business is business and a business must make money if the doors are to stay open. I get it. But when you have different uniforms at each rank that the student must purchase, and you require specific items at each rank (targets, focus mitts, sparring gear, etc.) you are pushing a limit and some students will walk when they identify that this is going on.
6. Withhold deeper knowledge. Post a clear set of rank requirements so the students know what and when they are learning. The age-old practice of hiding some secret knowledge really needs to die.
7. Fail to let them know when they get it right. In a physical skill like martial arts, it is no sign of a keen eye to be able to catch people doing it wrong. It is a much higher skill to catch them doing it right. But it takes a further step; you have to see them doing it right, and then you have to tell them they did it right.
8. Don’t pay assistant instructors. Exactly how anyone ever becomes and unpaid instructor without a certain level of brainwashing is beyond me, but this is another practice that needs to go. If someone is doing your teaching for you, be an upright and honest person and pay them.
9. Insult their intelligence. A Black Belt does not mean you know everything. It does not mean you are an exemplary person. In my life I have known some amazing martial artists who were deeply flawed human beings. It is okay, when asked a question to which you do not know the answer to respond with a simple and honest, “I don’t know.”
10. Withhold Black Belt based on unexplained standards. A black belt is a rank. Somehow people have become confused and think it means something more than it means. I fully respect the many hours of training and deliberate action that it takes to learn the material. What I do not respect is the baffling use of the word standard in terms of a physical skill. By nature; every single human being is going to perform a technique in a slightly different way. There is no one correct way. Sorry if that offends anyone, but it is the truth, and it will sink in someday.
There is my list. Even if you are not doing everything listed here, and perhaps are only doing one of the items listed – you will lose some of your best because of it.