This week has been an exciting one. Several new students have started with me and a few of the older ones are changing the program a bit, goals are getting bigger and lessons are getting tougher. From both the new and old students I am reminded of the importance of patience. Patience for oneself when starting a new exercise, patience in dealing with our horses and most importantly patience in teaching our students. Though not always from the equestrian world, I have a lot of practice in teaching. I was a math tutor in high-school, I was a writing assistant in college and both a tutor and freshman teacher in graduate school. I had all sorts of students- the super-eager, twenty minutes early to class to review notes kind, the glazed eyes, I don't need to know calculus kind and every variation in between.
My teaching philosophy doesn't vary much across the academic and equestrian world. Heck, I even use my model as a means of communicating and training with my horses. As such, the central tenant is always to take responsibility for the progress, plateaus and decline in my students. I believe that students and horses want to be good at what they do, in short they want to learn. If students are not correctly completing the exercise, they are not obstinate, lazy or untalented they are simply confused or uninspired by my teaching. In other words, there is noise in the channel and it is my job to go back, rethink my explanation and try again.
Each time I sit in the saddle or stand in the middle of the ring, I am constantly reading my students. I am asking myself if they actually understand. I am determining what motivates them, what makes them back off and I tailor each lesson to develop the strengths as much as the weaknesses. As I do this, I determine the limits of my teaching and I too find ways to grow.