Recently our intructor had to leave early from practice, and I was left in charge and the most graduate (and only) adult, with a workout plan for the remaining practice time.

The group was not that large (less than ten), there was no significant problems with anyone, and work plan was followed. Still, I felt uncomfortable with the way I commanded the activities, felt to be barely in control, and very far from the level of discipline our instructor achieves. Things seemed to get out of track quickly and frequently.

Maybe it was lack of experience in this role, and resulting lack of confidence. Maybe there is a "voice of command" skill to be better developed?

How could I improve this?

(Maybe relevant context: I'm over 40, parent of two kids, and the class was composed of a kid and teens, boys and girls).

  • Teaching a class is difficult - its made much worse in this scenario - making the jump from fellow student to "instructor" is much harder than running your own class - where they only ever see you as instructor. Other than practice and being very strict the first couple of lessons - I don't know what to suggest (good answers will certainly help me out too). – Collett89 Jun 27 '18 at 9:47

You should (read: must) not teach children alone. That opens you up for all sorts of bad allegations that could tarnish your name forever and end you on certain registers you cannot get off. There should be at least one (or better two) other adults present in addition to the main instructor at all classes.

Usual disclaimer: I am not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV. I do teach children in my club so I am aware of the law in my local. Yours might vary… This is not legal advise.

Respect is earned, never given.

Kids/Teenagers are no different. You have to earn their respect. Thankfully, kids and teenagers are easier than adults in that respect.

At 40 you should not be training in a kids class so you should already be seen as an instructor by them all. Ideally, your main instructor should have you run warm up, cool downs, and teach segments of class while they are there. This makes the transition easier and you get respect reflected from the main instructor as you build your own. Also, they can police the class behind your back.

Kids are there to play. They want to have fun. Let them play games and have fun while trying to gloss over bad behaviour and be really vocal and supportive of good behaviour: positive reinforcement works best. Stop and shout only if they do something dangerous. Otherwise, keep your calm and cool just give your attention to those that do the correct thing. Kids do pick up on that.

Teenagers still like to play but want to be adults more. Let them. Give then room to take responsibilities for themselves. Ask them for help to get the kids under control. Again, positive reinforcement works best but teenagers are starting to see past that so you need to be a little more careful of big exaggerated praises.

Finally, show no fear: When I ask kids to do something there is no doubt in my mind, voice, and posture that it will happen. First sign of dissent gets put down fast in the most calm and gentle way possible! No violence obviously ☺. I find that just looking at a kid misbehaving and waiting for the to stop does the trick -- especially if the rest ask why nothing is happen. Of course, make sure you praise something worthy that said kid does later on. You want them to feel good even though you shouted at them five minutes ago. Then, let them all have a win: let them pick a game, a technique to practice, whatever.

As to command voice… Make sure you project your voice instead of shouting. Like any good tools, use sparingly it is great. Used too often and it becomes background noise.

[…] there was no significant problems with anyone, and work plan was followed.

Yeah, that's what we call a successful kids class. You did nothing wrong there. It's all good. If all your kids classes end up like that, you'll be a terrific teacher. Mike P in his answer has some great advise as to how to improve.

Things seemed to get out of track quickly and frequently.

Of course they do. Kids have no attention spam to speak of. That's normal. Letting them go off track for a bit then reigning them in is how you get them to actually do something.

TL:DR Your monsters are making you feel like you did not do well. You did.

Monsters do not sleep under your bed, they sleep inside your head


There is definitively a "voice of command" skill that can be mastered. But it is not so much about shouting like a drill sergeant as there are many other subtle variations you can change. You want to communicate assertively

  1. Language - when you want to be assertive, you use the imperative. *Settle down, please" as opposed to "Please settle down" - is a major difference in how you will be perceived, even while being polite and using "please".
  2. Body language - slightly forward leaning, no fidgeting with hands (keep them still, if that is a problem, physically hold one hand with the other and keep them still). Use your hands when giving orders. Go there, Fetch that... point and give direction. Make yourself as big as you can be, when you are pointing somewhere, extend your arm fully.
  3. Positioning - Not in the corner. Use space. Use elevation.
  4. Uncomfortable silence is your friend Think it makes you uncomfortable? It makes everyone uncomfortable. Use it.
  5. Don't back down from a challenge - I don't mean counterargue every single point. But when someone questions something, take the initiative. "Good question, Charlie!" - you can buy yourself time with repeating the question to the class "Did everyone get that?" and then just make a decision. Either "We'll do it like this anyway" or "That is a fair point, we will do it like that".
  6. Invade people's personal space - No, don't go all #metoo. But put your face half an inch closer than what you think is proper when challenging someone that is being disruptive. Then use the #4, silence, if it isn't enough. Uncomfortable = good.
  7. Make eye contact - Again, keep the eye contact half a second longer than what you think is comfortable.
  8. Behave like a leader - Lead the way. Don't expect anyone else to put in effort, if you are not. Don't expect everyone else to be serious, if you are not. Lead with example. Lift those who are being too silent, reward effort with praise, interrupt those who are being too loud, discipline if necessary with #4, #6 and #7.

Since it is a MA class, you can even do the oldest trick in the book and hand out pushups as discipline or make the class do another repetition of something difficult / strenuous as collective punishment - but now we are moving into drill sergeant territory.

edit: As a #9: Teach yourself the stone face. It really works.

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    If you are going to do push up (or whatever), make damned sure you and everyone on the instructor team does them as well. – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Jun 27 '18 at 14:40

Along with the points from the other answers, the ability to project your voice is key.

For instance, the hall where I train and teach is often shared with some very noisy badminton players; if I can't project my voice over their noise, my students will struggle!

Being able to project your voice also helps students feel confident about you as an instructor.

If you have ever done any singing (not just in the shower!), or any acting, or public speaking, you probably know about projecting your voice.

If not, signing lessons and acting are a great way to learn!

I've included some links for reference:

  • the hall where I train and teach is often shared with some very noisy badminton players ← Are you training in the same place I am? – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Jun 28 '18 at 8:46
  • :) Do 'your' badminton players act as if they're at the Olympics?! – Mike P Jun 28 '18 at 8:51
  • There's grunting, shouting, cries of victory and despair… Sometimes, there's even air horns and thrice cursed vuvuzela. – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Jun 28 '18 at 9:35
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    Never had air horns and vuvuzelas; I consider myself blessed now! – Mike P Jun 28 '18 at 9:59

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