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teach:command-and-control [2015/09/10 20:51]
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 ====== Command and Control in parkour classes ====== ====== Command and Control in parkour classes ======
  
-Control is a good thing. ​ Parkour is a discipline that is all about breaking boundaries, pushing limits, and seeking freedom, which leads to a sort of knee-jerk underconfidence reaction among coaches: ​Well, I dont want to, like, force people to do things my way, yknow?  I mean, who am I to tell other people what to do?+Control is a good thing. Parkour is a discipline that is all about breaking boundaries, pushing limits, and seeking freedom, which leads to a sort of knee-jerk underconfidence reaction among coaches: ​"Well, I don't want to, like, force people to do things my way, y'know? I mean, who am I to tell other people what to do?"
  
-Youre a coach, thats who.  Adults entering the world of parkour are often hesitant, nervous, and overwhelmed. ​ Having a strong presence tells them Okay, this person knows what theyre doing and has a plan.  I can trust him/her to keep me safe and help me grow.”  ​Kids entering the world of parkour are often eager, energetic, and unaware of their limits. ​ Establishing yourself as an authority figure from the get-go preemptively wins a dozen battles and gives you leverage in a hundred more, while increasing the safety of your lessons. ​ And intermediate and advanced students can have a range of issues with coaches (reluctance to address personal weaknesses, I-know-better-than-you syndrome, poor work ethic) that can all be mitigated by a clear-cut class dynamic.+You're a coach, that's who. Adults entering the world of parkour are often hesitant, nervous, and overwhelmed. Having a strong presence tells them "Okay, this person knows what they're doing and has a plan. I can trust him/her to keep me safe and help me grow." ​Kids entering the world of parkour are often eager, energetic, and unaware of their limits. Establishing yourself as an authority figure from the get-go preemptively wins a dozen battles and gives you leverage in a hundred more, while increasing the safety of your lessons. And intermediate and advanced students can have a range of issues with coaches (reluctance to address personal weaknesses, I-know-better-than-you syndrome, poor work ethic) that can all be mitigated by a clear-cut class dynamic.
  
-Note that being firmly in control does not mean that there is no room for fun.  It means that there is no room for chaos. ​ Chaos is a students way to create fun for himself or herself when the instructor hasnt provided any.  An important part of coaching is creating high-quality outlets for creativity and excess energy. ​ Dont fight human nature--channel it in a direction that furthers the goals of the class.+Note that being firmly in control does not mean that there is no room for fun. It means that there is no room for chaos. Chaos is a student's way to create fun for himself or herself when the instructor hasn't provided any. An important part of coaching is creating high-quality outlets for creativity and excess energy. Don't fight human nature--channel it in a direction that furthers the goals of the class.
  
 ===== 1. Know yourself ===== ===== 1. Know yourself =====
-What do you want your students to experience? ​ What kind of class is successful” in your eyes?  PKV thrives because it allows its coaches to be the best versions of themselves ... were better off as a gym when we dont all teach the same way.  Coach A can run a super-strict,​ disciplined class, and Coach B can run a loose, exploratory,​ discovery-based fun class, and Teeny Tyson can enjoy switching back and forth between them if both coaches are running their classes in ways that work.  Dont try to be someone youre not ... establish in your own mind a clear-cut teaching philosophyso that you have a standard of success to judge yourself against.+What do you want your students to experience? What kind of class is "successful" ​in your eyes? PKV thrives because it allows its coaches to be the best versions of themselves... we're better off as a gym when we don't all teach the same way. Coach A can run a super-strict,​ disciplined class, and Coach B can run a loose, exploratory,​ discovery-based fun class, and Teeny Tyson can enjoy switching back and forth between them if both coaches are running their classes in ways that work. Don't try to be someone you're notestablish in your own mind a clear-cut teaching philosophy so that you have a standard of success to judge yourself against.
  
 ===== 2. Plan ahead ===== ===== 2. Plan ahead =====
-Your class presence” is no different from any other aspect of your lesson. ​ If you do not think about it ahead of time and formulate specific strategies, you greatly increase your chance of failure. ​ Fortunately,​ unlike the curriculum, class management problems are pretty consistent ​... you can keep your strategies polished without having to reinvent them from week to week.  But if you dont develop those strategies in the first place, you dont have anything to build on and maintain. ​ Think about your age and gender groupings, and what that says about the typical students youll be dealing with.  Think about the atypical students, and how youll need to recognize and accommodate them.  Look at the setup and the class description,​ and what kinds of behavior the environment will encourage. ​ If you cant imagine five problems that might occur, youre not thinking hard enough. ​ If you cant come up with five solutions, youre not ready to teach today.+Your class "presence" ​is no different from any other aspect of your lesson. If you do not think about it ahead of time and formulate specific strategies, you greatly increase your chance of failure. Fortunately,​ unlike the curriculum, class management problems are pretty consistent---you can keep your strategies polished without having to reinvent them from week to week. But if you don't develop those strategies in the first place, you don't have anything to build on and maintain. Think about your age and gender groupings, and what that says about the typical students you'll be dealing with. Think about the atypical students, and how you'll need to recognize and accommodate them. Look at the setup and the class description,​ and what kinds of behavior the environment will encourage. If you can't imagine five problems that might occur, you're not thinking hard enough. If you can't come up with five solutions, you're not ready to teach today.
  
-===== 3. Pick your battlesand win them ===== +===== 3. Pick your battles and win them ===== 
-This is a subset of know yourself.”  ​Things will go wrong. ​ Kids will act up.  Adults will take initiative you wish they wouldnt.  Highly skilled practitioners are going to get bored or passive-aggressive and start experimenting. ​ Lines are going to encourage attention drift. ​ If you attempt to control 100% of the things that are happening in your class, you will fail.  Its a juggling act, and you can only keep track of so many things.+This is a subset of "know yourself." ​Things will go wrong. Kids will act up. Adults will take initiative you wish they wouldn't. Highly skilled practitioners are going to get bored or passive-aggressive and start experimenting. Lines are going to encourage attention drift. If you attempt to control 100% of the things that are happening in your class, you will fail. It's a juggling act, and you can only keep track of so many things.
  
-Make a conscious decision about which parts of the class are yours” to controland which are left up to the students. ​ Remember: once you give orders on a subject, you must always give orders on that subject, so give as few orders as possible. ​ If the students are vaulting over a random box on their way back into line, the worst possible thing you could do is to offhandedly yell Hey, stay off the box!  Go right back to the end of the line!” and then turn your attention back to the main skill. ​ Youve just added a rule that you dont really have the time or energy to enforce, which means that youre subconsciously training your students that what you say doesnt matter.+Make a conscious decision about which parts of the class are "yours" ​to control and which are left up to the students. Remember: once you give orders on a subject, you must always give orders on that subject, so give as few orders as possible. If the students are vaulting over a random box on their way back into line, the worst possible thing you could do is to offhandedly yell "Hey, stay off the box! Go right back to the end of the line!" ​and then turn your attention back to the main skill. You've just added a rule that you don't really have the time or energy to enforce, which means that you're subconsciously training your students that what you say doesn't matter.
  
-If vaulting over that box is a problem, pause the class. ​ Explain your rule.  Get them to repeat it back to you, if theyre kids, or actively acknowledge you, if theyre teens or adults. ​ Or, if you dont have time for that, just physically remove the problem. ​ But before you do any of that, ask yourself: is vaulting over that box a problem? ​ Is it creating a hazard, defocusing the group, causing students to be unready when their turn comes around, or interfering with another class? ​ If the answer to these questions is no, perhaps what you want is to leave it alone. ​ Perhaps the underlying issue is not that theyre vaulting the box, but that your class plan leaves too much dead time in line, and instead of shutting down the students’ self-invented option, what you should do is offer your own line activity in the next drill.+If vaulting over that box is a problem, pause the class. Explain your rule. Get them to repeat it back to you, if they're kids, or actively acknowledge you, if they're teens or adults. Or, if you don't have time for that, just physically remove the problem. But before you do any of that, ask yourself: is vaulting over that box a problem? Is it creating a hazard, defocusing the group, causing students to be unready when their turn comes around, or interfering with another class? If the answer to these questions is no, perhaps what you want is to leave it alone. Perhaps the underlying issue is not that they're vaulting the box, but that your class plan leaves too much dead time in line, and instead of shutting down the students' ​self-invented option, what you should do is offer your own line activity in the next drill.
  
-Never, ever, ever allow one of your instructions to go completely ignored. ​ If you say something, enforce it.  On the flip side, say as little as possible. ​ If youre not willing to enforce it, or if it isnt actually a priority, let it go--completely.+Never, ever, ever allow one of your instructions to go completely ignored. If you say something, enforce it. On the flip side, say as little as possible. If you're not willing to enforce it, or if it isn't actually a priority, let it go--completely.
  
 ===== 4. Start strict and lighten up slowly ===== ===== 4. Start strict and lighten up slowly =====
-This will seem a little counter-intuitive,​ given the previous section, but its all relative. ​ By strict,” I dont mean strict in a literal sense, I just mean on the stricter end of your personal scale. ​ The first five minutes of class are the minutes in which you should make the most corrections to tone and behavior, even with adults. ​ Its far, far easier to relax your standards in the second half of class than to re-knit a group thats already half unraveled. ​ If you have a particular tone you want to set, set it from the beginning. ​ If you want your students to behave in a particular way, tell them what that way is, and put up walls to keep them from behaving differently. ​ Once again, choose your battles! ​ Only make students do things if theyre actually relevant to the goals of the class.+This will seem a little counter-intuitive,​ given the previous section, but it's all relative. By "strict," ​I don't mean strict in a literal sense, I just mean on the stricter end of your personal scale. The first five minutes of class are the minutes in which you should make the most corrections to tone and behavior, even with adults. It's far, far easier to relax your standards in the second half of class than to re-knit a group that's already half unraveled. If you have a particular tone you want to set, set it from the beginning. If you want your students to behave in a particular way, tell them what that way is, and put up walls to keep them from behaving differently. Once again, choose your battles! Only make students do things if they're actually relevant to the goals of the class.
  
 ===== 5. Create a single, consistent cue ===== ===== 5. Create a single, consistent cue =====
-If you say Okay, guys!” one time, Listen up!” another, and Level twos!” a third, youre not going to build an instinctive look-at-me reflex. ​ Create a single cue that means I want everyone to stop moving and give me their total attention.”  ​Once you have that attention, give your instructions and get confirmation that they were heard--never start talking while some of the students are distracted or wandering, and never release them or let them move until youre fully done talking.+If you say "Okay, guys!" ​one time, "Listen up!" ​another, and "Level twos!" ​a third, you're not going to build an instinctive look-at-me reflex. Create a single cue that means "I want everyone to stop moving and give me their total attention." ​Once you have that attention, give your instructions and get confirmation that they were heard--never start talking while some of the students are distracted or wandering, and never release them or let them move until you're fully done talking.
  
 ===== 6. Speak as little as possible ===== ===== 6. Speak as little as possible =====
-This goes back to dont-teach-students-to-ignore-you and be-consistent-with-your-cues, but it also matters in terms of class time.  Every second you spend talking is a second your students spend not moving. ​ Demonstrate wherever possible, avoid habitually repeating your instructions (as this also trains students to ignore you, since they know youll say it a third or fourth time), and once you start a drill, let it run at least three or four times before you stop the whole group for a redirect. ​ Save your long feedback for when you pull an individual aside; when you talk to the group, keep it short. ​ If you can get your point across without a single word, your class will be better for it.+This goes back to "don't teach students to ignore you" ​and "be consistent with your cues," ​but it also matters in terms of class time. Every second you spend talking is a second your students spend not moving. Demonstrate wherever possible, avoid habitually repeating your instructions (as this also trains students to ignore you, since they know you'll say it a third or fourth time), and once you start a drill, let it run at least three or four times before you stop the whole group for a redirect. Save your long feedback for when you pull an individual aside; when you talk to the group, keep it short. If you can get your point across without a single word, your class will be better for it.
  
 ===== 7. Enforce rule-breaking with consequences ===== ===== 7. Enforce rule-breaking with consequences =====
-If youre ashamed of the rule, you shouldnt have made it.  If its an important rule, then something needs to happen when it gets broken. ​ If nothing happens, youre subconsciously teaching the students that the rule doesnt matter, or that itworth it” to break the rule.  Pushups are a great consequence for all ages, because they take up time and energy that would otherwise be spent being bored and actually build strength.+If you're ashamed of the rule, you shouldn't have made it. If it's an important rule, then something needs to happen when it gets broken. If nothing happens, you're subconsciously teaching the students that the rule doesn't matter, or that it'"worth it" ​to break the rule. Pushups are a great consequence for all ages, because they take up time and energy that would otherwise be spent being bored and actually build strength.
  
 ===== 8. Begin and end your classes ===== ===== 8. Begin and end your classes =====
-We want to avoid classes at PKV having no clear starting point and fizzling out at the end.  ​Okay, everybody warm up in the cage while late students trickle in” does not set any kind of useful tone, and All right, good job, finish up your strength training and then get water!” does not cap off your lesson. ​ The universal warm-up does this for our beginnings, but you should develop a set routine for yourself early in your classes, something that pulls everyone together and resets them to Okay, here I am, lets do this.”  ​It can be as short as 60 seconds, but it should be the same for all of your classes. ​ Similarly, develop a closing ritual, whether it be a specific set of stretches, a repeat of your takeaway lesson, or a share-and-discuss in a circle before telling them good job, go home.+We want to avoid classes at PKV having no clear starting point and fizzling out at the end.  ​"Okay, everybody warm up in the cage while late students trickle in" ​does not set any kind of useful tone, and "All right, good job, finish up your strength training and then get water!" ​does not cap off your lesson. The universal warm-up does this for our beginnings, but you should develop a set routine for yourself early in your classes, something that pulls everyone together and resets them to "Okay, here I am, let's do this." ​It can be as short as 60 seconds, but it should be the same for all of your classes. Similarly, develop a closing ritual, whether it be a specific set of stretches, a repeat of your takeaway lesson, or a share-and-discuss in a circle before telling them good job, go home.
  
 ===== 9. Use students to control students ===== ===== 9. Use students to control students =====
-Partner drills are valuable teaching resources here at PKV.  In stretches and warm-ups, create activities that allow pairs of students to interact. ​ In conditioning,​ put triplets of students together, and train two of them to give feedback while a third exercises. ​ In skill drills, assign one student to move and another to critique, then switch off.  When asking a hypothetical question or posing a movement challenge, have different groups huddle to think of possible answers, and then have those groups share their best answers. ​ Teaching is one of the best ways to learn--you can tell a student to fix their squat a hundred times to no avail, but if you put someone with a similar problem in front of that student, youll be amazed how quickly theyll spot the issue and try to fix it as they demonstrate.+Partner drills are valuable teaching resources here at PKV. In stretches and warm-ups, create activities that allow pairs of students to interact. In conditioning,​ put triplets of students together, and train two of them to give feedback while a third exercises. In skill drills, assign one student to move and another to critique, then switch off. When asking a hypothetical question or posing a movement challenge, have different groups huddle to think of possible answers, and then have those groups share their best answers. Teaching is one of the best ways to learn--you can tell a student to fix their squat a hundred times to no avail, but if you put someone with a similar problem in front of that student, you'll be amazed how quickly they'll spot the issue and try to fix it as they demonstrate.
  
 ===== 10. Use call-and-response ===== ===== 10. Use call-and-response =====
-There are two major places for call-and-response in a PKV-style class. ​ One is during warm-ups, when you can count in the form One!” “ONE!” “Two!” “TWO!” “Three!” “THREE!”  ​The other is with crucial core principles, the things you want your students to learn so deeply that they shout them at other students during open gym (e.g. First we get it--”  RIGHT!”  Then we get it--”  SMOOTH!”  Then we get it--”  QUIET!”  Then we get it--”  FAST!).+There are two major places for call-and-response in a PKV-style class. One is during warm-ups, when you can count in the form "One!" "ONE!" "Two!" "TWO!" "Three!" "THREE!" ​The other is with crucial core principles, the things you want your students to learn so deeply that they shout them at other students during open gym (e.g. "First we get it--" ​ "RIGHT!" ​ "Then we get it--" ​ "SMOOTH!" ​ "Then we get it--" ​ "QUIET!" ​ "Then we get it--" ​ "FAST!").
  
-There are different justifications for the two different kinds of call-and-response. ​ They overlap somewhat--for instance, if you want students to stop side chatter and focus, either method works far better than just saying ​Stop talking and listen!”  ​Giving the students a time and a place to shout channels their desire to be loud, instead of trying to cut it off.  The numbers format, though, has a special benefit in that it naturally creates a sense of purpose and cohesion. ​ A bunch of students slowly filtering into the cage while half-listening to a coach droning in the background marks the start of a very different class than a bunch of students in lines or a circle all counting loudly together. ​ It subtly sets up the coach as the center of authority, creates an atmosphere of receptivity and responsibility on the part of the students, and has a measurably positive effect on student energy and intensity. ​ Allowing different students to lead the counting gives you an outlet for those who need attention, and a way to encourage those who are quiet or somewhat disengaged.+There are different justifications for the two different kinds of call-and-response. They overlap somewhat---for instance, if you want students to stop side chatter and focus, either method works far better than just saying ​"Stop talking and listen!" ​Giving the students a time and a place to shout channels their desire to be loud, instead of trying to cut it off. The numbers format, though, has a special benefit in that it naturally creates a sense of purpose and cohesion. A bunch of students slowly filtering into the cage while half-listening to a coach droning in the background marks the start of a very different class than a bunch of students in lines or a circle all counting loudly together. It subtly sets up the coach as the center of authority, creates an atmosphere of receptivity and responsibility on the part of the students, and has a measurably positive effect on student energy and intensity. Allowing different students to lead the counting gives you an outlet for those who need attention, and a way to encourage those who are quiet or somewhat disengaged
 + 
 +The philosophical call-and-response,​ on the other hand, brings unity to techniques that are often wildly disconnected by underscoring the common method and thought process beneath them. It reminds students of their priorities without making them feel lectured (they are participating in the process and providing the answer, rather than acting as a passive vessel to be filled with the coach'​s knowledge). It provides a "safe place" for students who are underconfident or who have received a lot of corrections to KNOW THE RIGHT ANSWER and be able to show that they know it. It empowers students to critically evaluate their own techniques and the techniques of others, taking an important step on the road of independent good practice. And it draws the line in the sand for the few principles that are truly indispensable in a discipline as open and free to interpretation as parkour.
  
-The philosophical call-and-response,​ on the other hand, brings unity to techniques that are often wildly disconnected by underscoring the common method and thought process beneath them.  It reminds students of their priorities without making them feel lectured (they are participating in the process and providing the answer, rather than acting as a passive vessel to be filled with the coach’s knowledge). ​ It provides a “safe place” for students who are underconfident or who have received a lot of corrections to KNOW THE RIGHT ANSWER and be able to show that they know it.  It empowers students to critically evaluate their own techniques and the techniques of others, taking an important step on the road of independent good practice. ​ And it draws the line in the sand for the few principles that are truly indispensable in a discipline as open and free to interpretation as parkour.