“Be the eternal teacher who teaches with the body when young, with words when old and by moral precept even after death.”
-Gen. Choi, Hong Hi
Instructor burnout is devastating to the art of ITF Taekwon-Do (or any art for that matter). When an instructor feels burned out, students are quickly uninspired and rarely (if ever) do they have the ability to produce new instructors. The most likely thing to happen will be that the instructor decides that it’s not worth it anymore and quits teaching all together.
When instructor burnout occurs, its always because either you are physically unable to teach like you used to and all the pretending that you are better than you really are is catching up with you, OR that you are no longer connected to the difference you are making for people and the reasons why you started teaching in the first place.
The first one is the result of instructor ego. You just don’t want to accept the reality that your body is no longer able to do what it used to, but you continue to attempt to do things that are better suited for a younger or more able body. In a short period of time, you find yourself tired, overworked and uninspired when it comes to teaching. As this apathy creeps in, it permeates the school and the students, leading to poor classes and poor business.
I’ve dealt with this first hand.
When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2012, I just couldn’t believe that as a 32 year old, my body would literally go from active, teaching, training, U.S. Taekwon-Do team member and school owner to being unable to get off the couch for six months… over night!
When I started feeling a little better, because I love teaching Taekwon-Do, I tried teaching on a limited basis, forcing myself to suck it up and deal with the pain during class. Then I wound up paying for it dearly later that night, being unable to sleep and in even worse pain than normal. It wasn’t long before I was getting burned out, was unable to deal with the pain and teaching class began to occur as a burden to me.
It was only one class a week but it got to the point where over a two month period I was only able to teach half of the classes. I knew that if I had an employee that only showed up 50% of the time they’d be fired, so my dad and I had a meeting and I fired myself.
Not everyone is dealing with what I was, but the same concept applies. I was trying to do things I just couldn’t do anymore and didn’t want to believe that I couldn’t.
I’m also not saying you need to fire yourself or your instructors if they are burned out, but you may need to change the way you do things or help your instructors learn new ways to get the information across.
You don’t have to be the greatest martial artist to be the greatest teacher.
Just look at any professional sport. The coaches are not quite perfect human physical specimens, many are actually out of shape and nowhere near the best at performing what it is they are teaching. But they are the best at getting the most out of others and consistently getting them to perform at a high level.
The second reason for instructor burnout is not being connected to why you started teaching in the first place!
I’ve seen this time and time again. You start off lit up and full of life with visions of the difference you are going to make for people and the impact you will have on the lives of others, ready to fulfill your dream of running your own school.
Then, over time your focus shifts. You get caught up in the struggle of running a business, the day to day busy work, cleaning and errands, having to pay rent, dealing with students who quit, failed marketing campaigns and an unpredictable flow (or lack of flow) of new students.
When your focus shifts like this, it can easily occur like everything is piling up on you, you feel overwhelmed and you are disconnected from the reasons why you got into this in the first place.
When you are focused on the real reasons why you teach, all the stuff listed above is just what needs to get done for you to fulfill on the bigger picture.
I’m willing to bet that Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t enjoy having to march again and again, having to endure an onslaught of racial slurs or having to see the brutal treatment of blacks over 50 years ago, but he had a dream. He kept himself focused on the big picture and was able to persevere and accomplish great things.
Your job is to continuously remind yourself of the reasons why you do what you do, why you got started in the first place. When you are truly connected to the real reasons, the meaningful reasons why you teach and you are acting consistent with that, the rest tends to work itself out!
About the Author:
Mr. Karstadt is the founder of 1 TKD Consulting and owns the longest running ITF Taekwon-Do school in Arizona, Karstadt Taekwon-Do in Phoenix, AZ with his father Master David Karstadt. He has been training since 1984, earned his Black Belt at the age of 8 and is currently an internationally renown intstructor teaching the culture, discipline, leadership and business skills of Taekwon-Do in classes and seminars to Instructors around the world. He has been a member of eight U.S. Taekwon-Do Teams and has traveled to 14 different countries competing in Taekwon-Do. He has won numerous medals at the World Championships and in international competition, most notably winning the 2004 World Championships in South Korea with two gold medals and the Men’s Team All Around Trophy. Mr. Karstadt currently resides in uptown Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and three children. Mr. Karstadt can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com