"We need to take a break from training, this school year is just too hard for my child." How many of you have heard something like this in August or September?
Back to school can be a very challenging time when it comes to keeping students. So many of our students and families have created new, sometimes detrimental habits over the summer that can make it hard to adjust back to a school-centric routine including staying up too late, sleeping in, not having homework, etc. When they are experiencing these adjustment pains in their routine, it can be easy to make other changes, like skipping martial arts class. How do we make sure that these students don't stop coming to class when school starts? I like to use a phrase from Hanshi Dave Kovar which is "prophylactic vs therapeutic." This simply means prevention works better than crisis management. I like to start talking about these issues way in advance and preparing for these obstacles before they happen rather than after they’ve already started happening.
For me, a big part of my prevention process is having our mat chats at the very beginning of class be all about consistency with training, perseverance, indomitable spirit, and so on. The tortoise and the hare story is great for this because it's all about not giving up when things get challenging, like extra homework, or crazy schedules.
Making sure you engage the parents during these talks is crucial, because more often than not, the parents are the ones struggling to get their kids to class, not the child. You see most of the parents have begun to create their own habits during the summer as well, such as, taking some time off or finding other means of transportation for their kids that are no longer available when school starts back up. Did you help them to create these habits? What I mean is did your summer schedule change so much that re-establishing a routine with your classes is just as difficult as going back to school? Did you close for large portions of the summer or otherwise change your schedule to break the habits they had established last school year? For a year-round activity like ours, routine is your ally.
My other suggestion would to be to evaluate what curriculum you teach in August to make sure it isn't overly challenging as most students are already overwhelmed with getting back into the idea of homework and after school activities. And don’t forget, now more than ever it's important to stay on top of your DNS (did not show) list. Call, text, email, send out “we miss you” cards to anyone that has not been in for 7 days so they don't make a habit of not coming to class. Of course, offer private lessons to help acclimate your students to regular training again. It can be as little as 10 minutes before class for students that have been gone and need a little extra help to get caught up and not feel lost in class.
These are just a few of the many strategies you can find as a member of our Satori Community. Hope they help!
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