A Teacher Lament

By Jeff Potter

I have run into the unfortunate realization that, as a Sensei, one might tend to favor the enthusiasm of students who attend as many lessons as possible and have, if not natural talent, then the drive to be as awesome as they possibly can. It is not that there is anything wrong with holding these particular vehement students in high regard, but for the casualties that decide to quit after a short time in training even though the Sensei might have thought that everything was going quite well.

It is so terrible to lose a quality student because of a dampened spark or other external forces. This is where the true dilemma begins. At the loss of even very few prodigal students, the students that are left behind, though not as intense, are in need of just the same if not much more of the Sensei’s attention. I have found that there is this demonic subliminal stress that makes me almost resent the students that come to classes only because there is nothing better on television. There are the ones who just come to say they take martial arts. There are those who want only a piece of the pie, but do not have the appetite for the whole thing. I find myself wondering what the purpose of this whole western attitude is to something that means so much to my existence! How can people treat this so casually? They see this as a commodity I guess. They pay for a month of classes and that is what they expect in return. They do not want to be responsible for cleaning the mats, helping new students out who have just come in the door, nor do they want to enlist in many of the programs the schools might offer (seminars, demos, etc.). It is rare gold to be graced with students who actually say “Domo Arigato Gozaimashita Sensei” because they have taken the unsolicited initiative to do a little background studying. So these poor, left-over students might make one say, “What am I doing this all for?”

I have been noticing that I am craving the luxury of being able to pick and choose the people that I want enrolled in the school. But I cannot afford that luxury; I am a pawn to the public and the damn economy.

I believe that major advertising is the only solution to the grievance of not having enthusiasm to work whole-heartedly with the students who take ‘karate’ because “it’s the thing to do.” With dojos that are so out of the flow of traffic, both foot and vehicle, one might think that only the most dedicated and hard- core students would seek, find, and become disciples. I find that many of these psuedo-uchi deshi will cringe at the slightest discomfort no matter how much gusto their countenance may exude. But I have to accept that this is the majority, and I have to make a living, so I hope and pray that the Great Spirit will bless me with at least one out of every ten students to be a prodigy. So the more students that know about the schools, the more enrollment, the more chance of prodigies, the more money and the better the quality of the classes because of the increased enrollment and income. I am a teacher, I cannot expect to change anyone’s perspectives but only hope to reach at least one mind.

This is absolutely stream-of-thought and serves no purpose to anyone except for those who may glean something useful from the page, be it knowledge or something to light the grill with.