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Old 12-01-2009, 08:31 AM   #21
Doc Dority
Dojo: Pencak Silat of Dallas
Location: Dallas
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 3
Re: Student Intake Questionnaire

I think there is no "right" or "wrong" nature to the use of a student intake questionaire. It largely depends on how one choses to screen and evaluate a potential student. I'll weigh in on this subject ,as we do use such a tool. My school is a very traditional "back yard" or "closed door" setting , similar to the schools I trained with in Indonesia. My primary art is different but the issue of how to evaluate a prospective student is similar. In Pencak Silat , especially in SEA, it is expected that there will be some sort of screening process. Also, I am a practicing physician with easily verified credentials , training backgrounds and registry with the DEA and DPS as well as other organizations. Yet, for me to get priviledges to simply work at a new hospital or clinic I have to accomplish extensive questionaires and submit piles of paperwork . Later to be able to continue to work at those facilities , although my training and such has not changed ,I have to reaccomplish the whole recredentialling process including the extensive questionaires and submission of documentation. So, I don't really think a simple questionaire is such an ordeal for a sincerely interested student to have to have to complete.
If a student can't handle your request to answer a few simple, straightforward questions , I'm not certain they will be able to follow your other requests with regard to more daunting training requirements. Pendekars of our system have a number of different ways to evaluate a student and some do use the questionaire. The questionaire may be used with other more subtle tests to evaluate the student when they have no idea they are being evaluated. Of course this is done in a culture where the student seeks the teacher , rather than the teacher seeking the student. An associate of mine does not screen his students before they enter his school but he has admitted that every one that came to him , having refused to fill out my questionaire has turned out to be "a knucklehead". Every student that has taken the time to fill out the questionaire has been worth inviting to train and they have stayed longer than one or two classes of "sightseeing". If an applicant takes umbrage at having to fill out a questionaire it is really of no concern to me. I have a pool of knowledge he or she would like to tap into. At the end of the day I still have that knowledge , but depending on that individual's response he or she will or will not be on the way to having some of it as well. I am not running a restaurant. Showing up with a wad of cash in your hand does not entitle you to a right to my knowledge. You must show me some character traits that insinuate that I can share knowledge that can be used appropriately or can easily be perverted to inappropriate use. A little polite acceptance of my relatively benign request combined with the patience to fill out the document is a good start. Our respective arts are more than physical. We can ( and do ) weed out students with a daunting training regimen. Some people can persevere over physical tests just as some can "Know the right answers" for a questionaire. The Questionaire is a tool that has to be carefully considered and combined with other more subtle ways to evaluate a student.
The presentation of the questionaire has a lot to do with how an applicant recieves the request. It does not have to come across in a threatening manner. I make it known that this is an opportunity for them to tell me what they are seeking and why. Also we are interested in any challenges they know may create obstacles to their training such as injuries and handicaps. We explain this is questioning is to help both parties decide if we can honestly meet their needs and goals. The wording of the questionaire can provide the prospective student with an insight into our schools world view as well. For instance, I make it known that we do not require a student to reject his previous trainers' teachings nor do we demand that they train exclusively in our method as long as they "empty their cup" when they train with us. I do like to know if the prospective student has his/ her other teacher's blessing to train with me. I emphasize that we are willing to work around a student's handicaps but we need to know of them to maximize their safety in training. I emphasize there is no need for essays when a yes or no will suffice . I emphasize that there is not necessarily a "right" or "wrong" answer but I just want a truthful , sincere answer. One person mentioned the consideration that people are only screened out if they can't give the "right" answer. What is the "wrong answer" to questions regarding travel/scheduling issues, handicaps, injuries, etc? The "truthfullness" of those questions answers are not hidden long. Only truthful answers help the student and teacher work together to overcome these obstacles.
One of the reasons I use the questionaire ,as well as considering a few other things in my screening process, is that my "school" is at my home. We all know that martial arts , regardless of style, attracts wonderful people who merit our time , attention and energies and it also attracts the "nut case". I don't feel I can afford to have the latter showing up on my doorstep.
I teach an art that can be very dangerous in the wrong hands. I'm certain you would say the same of Aikido. The questionaire is part of my responsibility to the community not to put skills and tools in the hands of those who would use the art irresponsibly or innappropriately.
The skills we teach must be trained with patience, control and consideration for one's partner(s) , so screening is part of my responsibility to the safety of my students.
Some students later have told me, the fact they had to fill out a screening questionaire gave them the impression that they were applying to something that was serious, meant business and was a bit exclusive. They fely these were "positives".
I will admit the "Student Intake Questionaire" while being ( at least for us) an important screening tool , it is imperfect.

With Respect,

Doc Dority
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