You see me greet your child with a smile before class. You see me wave and smile at you when you pick up your child after class. Here’s what you don’t see…
Soon after you left a family came into the dojo. You didn’t see their smiles or hear the happiness in their voices.
You didn’t see me take something I learned in a seminar and adapt it for whoever happened to be in class that day.
I don’t really blame you for not seeing me wince when I demonstrated a technique. I did my best to hide discomfort from an injury I sustained during the rare times when I get to be a student.
You missed me advising an older adult student on how to adjust their stance to work around a stiff foot that was injured a long time ago.
You didn’t see me teach a class that included different ages and ranks, juggling their needs and making sure that everyone learned something valuable.
You didn’t see the look of pride on my face when your child demonstrated that they had memorized their new kata.
You didn’t watch your child fearlessly spar with someone older, bigger, and more advanced in rank. In fact your child deliberately chose that student.
You didn’t see your child’s reaction to the news that they are going to be testing for their next belt.
While you were busy taking pictures after your child’s belt test you missed the quiet conference held among the “black belts” in a corner of the room. We received feedback about our students. In the months to come we will be adjusting our teaching.
I gave your child a flyer about a special event and I emailed you. You and your child missed the event. In fact you’ve missed all the special events we’ve had since your child started – including potlucks, seminars, tournaments, and, sadly, your child’s friends’ belt tests.
You see my black belt with the cool embroidery but you have no concept of what it means to earn it – or what it took to earn it. And you don’t know this, but I am still striving to learn and grow in my art.
You have no idea that I started karate when I was older and more heavyset than you.
You’re still sleeping when I get up to practice.
You haven’t seen all the tears that flow whenever there’s bad news about a member of my karate family.
And you have no idea that us “black belts” would much rather help you learn karate alongside your children than see you zip off to who knows where. We do know this is the norm for most students in our dojo but that doesn’t mean we don’t wish it were different.
Parents… Adults in general… I am far more than a rather expensive babysitter. Please don’t take me for granted.
Disclaimer: This comes from several years of observation and is not tied to my recent change of status and subsequent responsibilities. If you recognize yourself in this either as a parent or a sensei it’s because everything I’ve written about is all too common.