Monday, May 25, 2009

Teachers and Training

I remember every dog training instructor I've ever had. Which is pretty amazing considering my awful memory. I remember not only who they were, and what they taught, but more importantly HOW they taught it. The ones that stand out are the ones who made training clear, fun, and rewarding. If at the end of a seminar/class and I am no further ahead in my understanding or ability, and was bored to tears I am not as likely to go back. If I am having a good time, learning, and things are broken down for me and for the dog, I will be the first to sign up for the next one!

I think the key to being a good instructor is presentation. Really. How your lesson is expressed, and how the students receive the message. There are always lots of laughs in our class. We are friends with our students and know their dogs. Everyone has a good time, and by the size of our classes, and by the amount of people who come back each session I would say that most people appreciate our style.

You of course need to HAVE THE KNOWLEDGE to share. And make sure that you are delivering that knowledge clearly, and in a way that everyone is able to understand. What you are teaching better be something that you yourself have experience with, and that you fully understand- if you don't know the answer that is fine- but be honest, and then find the answer. As an instructor you need to keep current with training- new ideas and methods are popping up all the time and it is important to keep abreast of that sort of thing.

Rewards are not only important for the dogs- students need to be told when they do something awesome, or have finally mastered something they've been working on. A "Good Job" can make or break someones night- and even finding and rewarding those small break throughs can make someone feel good about their dog, and themselves.

Teaching is not all fun and games though. People, like dogs, learn through their mistakes. It is our job to make sure that people are learning and improving. Not repeating the same mistakes over, and over again. It is our job to break things down if need be, or offer an alternative so that the team is succesful. I am not known for being subtle. If you screw up I will be the first to tell you. Rarely is there ever a need to blame the dog. It is always the person. :o)

A good teacher/student ratio is important too. Having 10 or more dogs for one instructor means that you are either going to be waiting around a lot, or getting minimal instruction. Sometimes classes with multiple instructors is the way to go. But finding balance between the instructors is important. There is nothing worse than having two instructors who are complete opposites and contradict one another. Sarah and I teach together (we also trial together which is a whole 'nother post...) and I think we compliment one another. Sarah is VERY anal and plans to the second. She does most of the lesson plans now, and also is the weave queen. She has an eye for that and we recognize that strength. I am not as well organised and Sarah keeps me in line. I LOVE training contacts and am bossy enough to get my message across about how important teaching independant contact performance is. I also am the queen of "REWARD THE FREAKIN' DOG!!!" :o) Oh- and Sarah is in charge of teaching case you were wondering. We both have our strengths and weaknesses...okay, I have more weakness than Sarah! :o)

I would hope that people remember our classes as being fun, informative, and come away knowing more than when they walked in. It is not easy to be an instructor. I remember thinking how fun it would be to boss people around and get paid for it! Well, it is fun- but it is much harder than one would think! It is mostly a very enjoyable, and rewarding job- I love seeing students succeed, or finally get that one thing they've been struggling with. It is a feeling that is pretty special.


Marcy said...

You're a great teacher!! i loved your classes.

Sarah said...

You didn't mention all the booze we drink before and after the classes. :)

We are the ying and yang, and it works. LOL "we also trial together, but that is a whole 'nother post)

We have a great group of students/friends/training buddies. We are very lucky, and it keeps me going, it is never a CHORE or something I dread when we go out to the field to teach.

I also think teaching makes us better trainers for our dogs too.

Me, Anal? what?

Great post!

manymuddypaws said...

the drinking was a secret....way to go and wreck it... :o)

Sarah said...

shit sorry.

onecollie said...

Kort is the 4th collie I've trained & my biggest challenge.....I thank god for you being my instructor with him!!!
Maybe I'll have to go to agilty so I can laugh at you & Sarah piss each other off!!!

onecollie said...

by the way,.....can I take part in the drinking if I'm a good girl in class? ! LOL!!

manymuddypaws said...

we only drink before....and sometimes after.... :o)

Anonymous said...

Great post Amanda and I know I sure appreciate all I am learning even after 10 years of playing agility and trying to break some bad habits of the past..
Tea is my first GO DOG GO Agility trained dog from puppy to present time and I think she may in in the near future end up being my best so far agility dog (don't tell my other guys)


Anonymous said...

Well, sounds like I should switch trainers...mine are the pits. Just bugging! Are you two done tooting your own horn yet? ;)