At this point, if you are following along with the blog, you may have noticed hints of this other fun thing I do in my spare time, teaching riding lessons. I usually have between two and ten students, and they are between 8-70 years old, although this blog touches on children. I teach newbies just starting out and I have even taught lessons to help students branch out of their disciplines. I have been teaching lessons off and on since I learned how to ride. I started out as an assistant helping my instructor at summer camp. Eventually I was teaching lessons at summer camp and leading trail rides. I took a break through much of high school and got started again at the end of college and the beginning of graduate school.
I guess all this background to say that there were two definitive phases of my teaching philosophy so far, and I expect my ideas will continue to change as I have more experiences. During my younger teaching days, I spent a lot of time working with temporary “students.” We worked with visitors at conferences, just in for the weekend. We worked with students at summer camp, and we worked with very small children for their first lessons. At this point, the central focus of my duties was always safety. Safety safety safety. I needed to make sure the people I was helping didn’t inadvertently hurt themselves as they were learning. This focus on safety gave me the tools to really pay attention to what others were doing around horses. And in fact, it made me very uncomfortable in several situations where the safety focus was not present. There are, of course, pros and cons to this approach, but it definitely gave me a solid foundation.
During and after college, I have really had the opportunity to develop my own teaching style. I have taken this safety focus and evolved it. I have learned how to make sure the lessons are engaging and fun, and level appropriate. I work very hard to ensure my students are progressing at an appropriate speed. Sometimes that means cantering, and other times that means trotting patterns for additional weeks. I really work hard to push my students out of their comfort zones in a safe, growth focused way. Now, don’t misunderstand. Sometimes I push my students too much and I must back down to an easier lesson, but many times I am rewarded by watching their new found confidence.
That is the part I find rewarding, and why I spend my precious extra time teaching lessons. I do appreciate working off my board, but I don’t make enough money to justify the time and worry I spend. I take value from seeing my students succeed. I like it when they choose new challenges, and learn that “can’t” is not a word in our vocabulary. I am always pleased when I switch horses and students who were scared to ride another horse have a successful lesson. Mostly I just want to teach the children entrusted to my care how to be independent thinkers, and how to think critically through the wide variety of challenges horses present.