The March issue of USDF Connection, the official publication of the United States Dressage Federation, had an interesting article entitled, “The Carrot or the Stick.” The piece was written by Kelly Sanchez, “a moderately rejection-sensitive writer based outside Los Angeles. She contributes regularly to The Chronicle of the Horse and to Dressage Today.”
The article’s point was to help the reader understand what type of teaching works best for them. The author gives examples such as needing to be yelled at, needing to watch it being done, needing time alone to practice for your-self, and so on.
This article really intrigued me for several reasons. The first is that I am a teacher myself and know that students come with many different learning styles. Some need gentle guidance, some need tough love, and some need a combination of the two. Others just need quick directions and then prefer to practice on their own. Other students need to be watched over every second or they drift off task and can’t remember what their job was.
I think that being a student myself has helped me to become a better teacher. I enjoy the role of student and find opportunities to put myself in that role. I’ve taken many continuing education courses and frequently participate in workshops and trainings. My favorite “classroom” experience of course is in the arena. I know what kind of student I am, and I know what kind of instructors I prefer.
First of all, I don’t need to be friends with my instructor, but I do need friendly interaction. I want to feel as though my instructor has a vested interest in my success and as such cares how I feel. I don’t need, or want, my hand held, but I do need to feel comfortable asking questions. If an instructor is going to trivialize my questions, we’re not a good fit.
In elementary or high school, there are academic standards mandated by the state. Students don’t have a choice in what they’re taught. As an adult, I understand that I need to have a firm grasp of the riding fundamentals, and I hope that my instructor insists on teaching what is required in order to have a solid foundation. But. My instructor needs to understand my goals. Aside from safety first, having fun is an important aspect of my riding education. Don’t get me wrong. I am not there to goof off, but riding is not my career choice. Riding is a hobby. I want to learn in a way that allows for some fun at the same time. A little levity after something difficult or challenging goes a long way toward making the day fun.
I also want to be successful, but not at the expense of enjoying the process. If that means I never make it to Grand Prix, oh well. That also means that I want to be as successful as possible with the horses that I have. Again, that probably means that we’ll never make it to the Grand Prix level, but I am okay with that. I’ve spent a great deal of time forging relationships with my guys so their feelings about the journey are also important. Our success as a team might come more slowly because I don’t get it, or because they don’t. Either way it’s okay with me, but I need my instructor to understand our limitations and do the best with the materials on hand, me and my horses, imperfect as we may be.
And finally, I need an instructor who will let me make mistakes. Let me try. If I fail, okay. If we always wait until we’re “100% ready,” we’ll never be ready. That’s one reason I love to show. I KNOW I am not going to get 10s on my score sheet, but let me see what I can get so that I know what I am doing right and where we need to improve.
I had a lesson with JL on Wednesday, and before we even started, I let her know how much I think of her and appreciate her teaching style. Riding with other trainers has helped me see what kind of instruction I need in order to achieve the greatest amount of success. So, thanks, JL! You're an excellent teacher.