Things I Learn While I Teach – Part One

This blog is entitled ‘Part One’ as I suspect there’ll be parts two, three etc as time rolls on. I have a belief I try to live by that says the day you think you know all there is to know on a subject is the day you should stop doing it because you’ve stopped approaching it with the right attitude. It doesn’t matter if you’re an architect, a surgeon or a brick-layer, you can never stop learning from others. Sure, sometimes you learn how not to do something but more often than not you learn something of genuine value. I regularly learn from colleagues, mentors or people who may not know much about the subject at hand but ask a question or make an observation at just the right time.

I teach people from all walks of life both face to face, over email or over the phone. They have a variety of aims for their riding and it’s my job as a coach to adjust my teaching style so that I’m able to communicate with them in a way that’s suitable, effective and they’re able to understand. For the most part I guess I just adapt without too much thought. I’ve come from a very strong customer service and management background so it’s something I learnt to do in the corporate arena. In the last few weeks I’ve had two new students in particular who I’ve really had to stop and think about how I teach.

The first one is male. Now I teach men reasonably often in adult riding club situations but I’ve not had a private male student for quite a while. It’s made me realise how much I’ve adapted my language and teaching style to women and also to the female anatomy. Phrases like ‘imagine you’re holding a pregnant belly’ to keep hands in the work area, and ‘aim to be still from your bra strap up’ are met with laughter from both of us but it’s really up to me to adapt my language to specifically work with him.

The second new student is five. Yes, five years old. I don’t tend to teach many young children as I find the attention span is fleeting depending on the day until they’re a little older. My friends know how I mourn the loss of the English language even though my vocabulary pales in comparison to many of them. I enjoy using language to make my points clear and think (hope!) I generally succeed. Two sentences into the lesson with the child looking at me like I’d landed from another planet I realised I was going to have to adjust a little. Words I’d normally use she simply didn’t know. My favourite moment was me asking her how she could ask her pony to turn the corner ‘nicely’ as the way she was asking was understandably wayward. She leant forward and really quietly went ‘please?’. Just too cute for words but it also showed holes in how I was asking her to do as I asked.

It’s been a very interesting experience for me to see how clear I can be with a limited vocabulary. I’m well used to teaching people who learn in different ways, aural learners, visual learners and so on. I make subtle changes to each lesson. These are just two examples of where I’ve probably learnt more than the people I’m teaching. It’s also been a great eye opener into how I communicate and how it really is my responsibility to ensure those I’m teaching truly understand what I share with them.


2 thoughts on “Things I Learn While I Teach – Part One

  1. I whole heartedly agree with you about the need for continuous learning. I tell people that if they come across a horse trainer or coach who says s/he knows everything there is to know about horses or riding, they should run (not walk) away. One of the things I have learned in coaching is to tell any new students that it’s ok to tell me if they don’t understand what I am saying. Many people seem to be afraid to do that.

    Looking forward to reading more of your blog posts.



  2. Thanks for your comment Anne! You’re SO right. I look forward to learning right to the end. I often tell people there are no stupid questions, just ones they don’t know the answers to yet.

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