Recently I published my first book, 'What Outstanding Instructors Do'. Since it was published, it has been doing incredibly well. More so, it’s been receiving lots of praise from those in the know: instructors and educators. For this I am eternally grateful.
When I set out to write the book, I thought it would turn out to be a small anecdotal booklet of about 100-150 pages of me talking and reminiscing about seeing this or that outstanding instructor getting their point across effortlessly or how they orchestrated a huge seminar with ease and magnetism. It started out like that but it very quickly grew into something quite academic in nature. This is both good and bad. A bigger, deeper book (53,000+ words!) allowed me to flesh out my thoughts and observations into more meaningful analysis. However, I was constantly worried that I was simply indulging myself (the writer) as opposed to serving the reader (the instructors). I ran this dilemma by a few trusted voices, both from within the Jiu-jitsu community and outside it. We agreed that, me being me, it was always going to be a bit of an academic 🤓 nerdy project, but that it would be a good idea to meet the readers half way. This gave birth to the “End of Chapter: Reflective Summary & Action Pointers” segments.
In these, as the name indicates, I summarised the previous chapter into bullet-points that the reader can put into action immediately. It’s something I know I appreciate any time I see it in any non-fiction literature.
In addition, I am going to, on a weekly basis, pick a technique or strategy from the book and discuss on Instagram (@the_part_time_grappler). If I feel the topic needs longer form of discussion, I’ll write an accompanying blog article here on ‘The Part Time Grappler’.
Once again and forever, thank you all for your encouragement and support and for buying the book (paperback and Kindle available through links here and here). First technique to be discussed: How to deal with “what if” questions in a win-win manner.
The first overarching theme I discuss in the book is all about setting high expectations as an instructor. The first technique within that area is a something I call 'Everybody in the pool'. It is the way I see the most experienced Outstanding Instructors deal with students choosing to opt out, in other words, students choosing not to do exactly what they are meant to be doing. This can range from rabbit-in-the-headlight type students not sure what to do to this-would-not-work-on-me know-it-alls. I discuss how the Outstanding Instructors I have seen deal with these scenarios in a win-win manner, but that one of the risks that can come up is entering into the dreaded “What if?” rabbit hole. Here, I’d like to discuss a good protocol to follow for how to deal with “What if?” questions.
While “what if?” questions can often emanate from a genuine curiosity the learner may have, they are sometimes used by learners looking shift the power distribution within the lesson. By asking “What if?” they can take charge of where Learning Episode goes next and, using a series of these, for how long.
An example can be someone who doesn’t seem to want to pay attention to specific grips and balance breaks that lead to a takedown. This may be because they are an experienced wrestler or perhaps already determined that they prefer pulling guard. Instead of paying attention and drilling the technique that is being instructed, they choose to fire off a series of “What if?” questions:
· What if I can’t get that grip?
· What if they grip me first?
· What if it’s Mixed Martial Arts and they’re not wearing a gi?
· What if their gi top is too tight?
Genuine or not, “What if?” questions are addressed by the Outstanding Instructor according to the simple Flow Diagram below:
- Directly relevant to the topic at hand: Stop the lesson and create a valuable learning episode
- Not directly relevant to the topic at hand: Praise the question and promise the learner that it will be addressed at a future opportunity*
Let us re-examine these questions:
· What if I can’t get that grip? Ideally, the instructor should have thought of this and dedicated the first part of the session to getting advantageous grips
· What if they grip me first? Stop the class and work on defensive grip fighting & grip breaking
· What if it’s Mixed Martial Arts and they’re not wearing a gi? Praise the question and promise the learner it will be addressed in the Mixed Martial Arts class, if your academy offers that class
· What if their gi top is too tight? As this technique is uniquely sport related, this question is neither important nor urgent. Smile and assure the student that the gi-checker at the competition should take care of that detail
That’s it. In fact, if the “What if?” question really is that directly relevant, the Outstanding Instructor would have already thought of it and can simply praise the learner for their insightful question and promise them that it will indeed be addressed at a future opportunity.
Thank you all for your encouragement and support and for buying the book (paperback and Kindle available through links here and here)
*It bears repetition that this is done with one hundred percent genuinity
ZHOO ZHITSU IS FOR EVERYONE!
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