The teaching profession requires many skills and close interaction with students. The student-teacher relationship is complex, it is a special sacred relationship in Japan and in most teaching institutions in Australia there are strict guidelines on what is and isn’t appropriate.
In the Japanese model, the student is expected to take care of the teachers needs out of respect for the teaching given. However the teacher is expected to have the students best interests at heart e.g. students pay the instructor a personal fee but sensei buys all the drinks after class (neither of these are expected in our association). Often in the West instructors expect the privilege and ignore the responsibilities of this traditional relationship. It’s a complex issue depending on how much Japanese culture is taken on as by instructor and the student. One simplistic decision is to enter Japan when entering the mat, and leave Japan when you leave the mat.
There is considerable degree of influence and power in the student-teacher relationship, this must be acknowledged and respected, as abuse of this power is not uncommon. Personal/romantic relationships do form occasionally between instructors and students, although should not be actively sought, it is important for there to be some separation here to avoid undue influence either way. This is particularly difficult when a student is making the transition to becoming an instructor. It is also not uncommon for admiration of your skills and insights to be misinterpreted by students romantically, this needs to be treated with great sensitivity and self discipline and should not be taken advantage of.
Students will often confide things in an instructor of a personal nature and these need to be regarded as confidential, unless there is disclosure of a criminal nature.
A certain amount of physical contact is required to practice aikido, however inappropriate touching (or even the perception of it) should be avoided. For example, asking permission to adjust a students hips and being aware of the greater personal space of newer timid students can all help here.
Some students are easier to teach than others, better looking than others, some students you will get on with or “make a connection” with, some students can consume all your time with “what if’s” if you allow them. Try to be aware of this and spend representative time with all students regardless. Of course there are legitimate reasons for focusing on particular students such as important gradings, or for taking a more active role in teaching.
Finally some advice from other teachers, Nonaka sensei says ‘ Be kind to your students and hard on yourself’. Students are a reflection of the teacher, their shortcomings are yours but their strengths are theirs alone.
Another teacher says ‘a teacher must do for the student what the student is unable to do for them selves’, no dojo chore is too menial for you to attend to.
Teaching Aikido >