In July 2016 I opened a Capoeira class at Google.inc in Mountain View, California. Prior to me coming along, a few eager students had reserved a space for themselves to practice on Fridays. I found this class excited to learn something new, but quickly realized there was no a teacher. There was no official teacher for the class, so I offered to teach class to the 3 people there. After doing this a second time (me thinking there would be a teacher this time!), I was asked by the students to become the official teacher. I thought it was a great chance to learn how to teach, so I agreed and in July, I became the official instructor of Google Capoeira!
Lesson 1: Consistent Marketing
Like I said, 3 students! Not much. And if I was charging each student per class, I wouldn’t be making very much money. I quickly made a basic flyer and had it distributed throughout the Google campus. Later on, I gave a survey to students and about 3/4 said the flyers was how they heard of the classes, confirming that I should keep putting up flyers. They say that people need to be exposed to an ad several times before the message goes from the back of the brain to the front, and that’s what the flyers did.
Lesson 2: Retention
Always try new things! Your master might have run classes a certain way, but that doesn’t mean that’s how you have to run your classes. Trying new things is great because even if some people don’t like what you do, you can always switch things up again. One example is when I started giving class during an open slot on Tuesdays. At first one person came, but the time turned out to be the most convenient for people and after a few weeks, more people were coming to the Tuesday classes than the original Friday classes!
If you’re thinking, “How do I keep track of all this?”, you’re asking the right question. Retention is the name of the game. And being able to measure the number of people who come, how many stay, and for how long, is very valuable. AKA, analytics! Experiment, see what works, and scale up with those strategies. I personally have looked into tools such as Glofox, Mindbody, and others for this. (I get no money from these guys)
Lesson 3: Homework
If Malcolm Gladwell was right and you need 10,000 hours before you can master anything, than it would take someone with olympic dedication 5 years to master something like Capoeira, and the 1 hour/week joe shmo 192 years. A student is often times limited by how much time they are able to be with their teacher, and a great way to overcome this limitation in my opinion is to create homework for students. Homework that is focused, and promotes competency in a particular skill that someone can do at home. If you care about your students development, give them homework! And bonus points if you hold them accountable for doing it!
Lesson 4: Bring in Teachers
I felt very lucky that I was able to give my students the opportunity to learn from someone with much more experience than me. For me that meant having Professor Silencio of Capoeira Mandinga come and teach a 2 hour class (practically a seminar) on expression and some creativity in movement. This is a win win for everyone involved. The teacher is payed, you learn something new, and your students learn something they could not otherwise. Bring more people into the fold and expand what you are able to bring to the table. Don’t let people forget the lessons they learn, write this stuff down! notes, pictures, and videos are very helpful to make sure you take full advantage of your guest teacher’s lessons.
Although there were many things I learned while teaching class, I think the biggest thing is to care for your students. Like children, they lean on you to know what to do next, so you have to always be on your toes, ready for the questions and challenges they bring. The experience was like no other and I hope everyone who does Capoeira gets the chance to teach at some point.