Hey all,

Although remaining on-topic in this group seems to have been a
sensitive issue as of late, considering the fact that this is
concerning teaching a classical fencing class leads me to believe that
this will be an acceptable question. Not to mention that you all were
very helpful to me with the issue of "blade whackers" the last time, so
I thought I would seek out the advice of the many who are far more
experienced than myself, because I know someone here has had to deal
with this issue.

My friend recently had a baby shower, and I had a female friend pick
out a cute gift for the baby for me because as I put it to my friend
(who got a kick out of this), "I'd probably give the kid a razor
blade." No, that has nothing to do with my question; the point of that
is to stress that I've never been too good with children. But
surprisingly, I have had great success with teaching children in my
fencing club. Personally, if I had my way, I would restrict the minimum
limit anywhere from 11-13, but I think it's important not to
discriminate against younger children because they can often surprise
you when they really "get it." But I think Nick Evangelista was dead on
in one of his books about why it's not always good to teach younger
children fencing. But as for age limit, that's the fitness center's
call, I believe.

Back to the topic on hand, I do get a "Kindercare Duelist" (my
terminology for kids of parents who place them in fencing class as a
pseudo day care while they work out) every now and then who looks bored
off his mind, but often I humor them and they never come back after the
course is up. But to their credit, they've always been obedient and
just about all my young students have been well behaved in my near
two-years of teaching.

But today, I have come across a little challenge. In my newest class,
there is one kid, maybe anywhere from 8-11 at a guess, that has started
to backtalk me. For example, we are only a few weeks in and I had
everyone today working on a simple parry and riposte exercise...nothing
real complex. As always, very awkward for all the students as I went
through 7 groups of people trying to help them with random things.
Anyway, I finally got to the end of the row with this kid, and he
immediately started whining about his need to "battle." I said I
understood (I can see how this is all boring from his view), but "you
need to learn how to ride the bike before we can go for a Sunday ride,"
I said.

He then whined that he knew that, but he HAD to battle (or something to
that effect, it was kind of mushed under his mask). I told him with a
firmer voice (and dropping the metaphor) that he needed to learn
everything I had to teach before I would allow them to duel. His
response was then (once again, mask and room noise made some of it
inaudible) that he had learned all of this before and was ready to
battle. I thought about pulling him out and ask him to show me
something ridiculously difficult and advance like a parry in prime then
transport into tierce and degage the parry, retreat and close with a
ballestra/lunge, and provided he did all that, I would allow him to
"battle." But I held off, realizing that I would only be doing that for
my own amusement and didn't want to patronize him. By the way, his
parries were ridiculously wide and they weren't even attacking on the
side I asked for, so I knew he was full of it.

So I dismissed the argument and just said to focus on the here and now.
But as I was explaining something about the attack, he would interrupt
me and start mumbling about something, think it was still about
"battling" but my mind was on the riposte. I started again, but same
thing happened again. I finally said "Listen to me please," before I
noticed that it was almost three o'clock and it was time to dismiss
everyone anyway.

I was a little bent out of shape because I didn't know how to handle
the situation (remember, I have no experience with children). Very easy
to handle adults of course, but children are a touchy subject because
even if you are rightfully stern when the situation indeed calls for
it, you never know what reaches the parents ears and they're in there
the following week yelling at you. A few years ago, there was an
absolutely BRATTY class giving the co-beginning instructors a really
hard time, and the Head Instructor suddenly exploded and pretty much
made everyone feel ashamed for the way they were acting around the
instructors. However, the next week a lot of parents came in to
complain, but my instructor was in the right and he was a real pro in
dealing with the parents and explained the situation. (I suppose there
were a lot of kids grounded that night)

So I went to the "master" and asked him how to handle it, and he said
for one that he would handle any angry parents if the situation came to
that. He also gave me some other advice about what to say, which I
won't go into (I've written enough here).

So I'm looking to you all who teach younger children and I know parents
can certainly relate to this situation, what has your experiences been
with this issue and how would you do in my position?

--
Patrick Shannon

"My War With Culture"
http://www.patrickshannon.com



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