Horses. They teach you a lot about educating kids.
I’m not suggesting kids are animals or anything. It’s just through my own horse I learned a lot. In particular; how my behaviour matters.
At the time of being a naive young teacher I was also coping with a manic horse. A massive, heavyweight, madcap full of the energy and power of a coiled spring. He was mental enough to shy at daisies and was addicted to speed. I was as effective as a gnat on his back. Controlling him was akin to containing a bottle of shaken cola without a lid.
After many crashing falls and uncontrollable bolting more terrifying than a roller coaster going off the rails I knew I had to do something different.
And that was the lesson; I had to change my behaviour because I was not going to control this maniac by strength or by force. I had to find other ways. And I realised then; it’s the same with kids.
Many an adult, parent or teacher resorts to force to manage children. Sometimes it’s blatant. More often it’s subversive and subtle, like snide put downs or inappropriate use of position. Throwing of weight about. It goes on a lot in schools and basically it’s bullying, even if we think we do it out of care. Because actually, we would choose a different way to behave if the child was bigger than us!
My horse was bigger than me. But I had to win him over if we were both going to live long enough to enjoy one another. I had to understand him better. Understand why he did what he did. See if changing my approach would make him trust me more.
That’s the key; trust. And that’s all part of respect.
If kids respect and trust you then they generally want to cooperate. To get that trust you really have to ask; is my behaviour worthy?
Early lessons in horsemanship and, bizarrely, in teaching too advocated being the Boss. Most people interpreted that to mean you need a bullying or authoritarian manner. Many parents adopt that approach as well.
The daft thing is; you get to be the Boss with kids by not being bossy. Instead, by being understanding and trustworthy in your behaviour.
I learned that the painful way thanks to my magnificent horse. I managed to gain his trust enough, with calm consistent behaviour, to get him past daisies without jumping in ditches or bolting off. I also learned that I did not have to resort to bullying kids in classrooms, or when home educating, to get them to cooperate. Respect worked better. And we enjoyed each other more.
Much later I discovered the work of Monty Roberts – The Man Who Listens To Horses. He also learned about parenting and working with young people through horses and went on to write Horse Sense For People in which he talks about some of those lessons. It’s an inspiring read – he’s an inspiring man. He too advocates a non-bullying, non-violent approach to relationships.
So I’m passing this onto you in case you don’t have a horse around to toss you in a ditch bottom so you can learn it too!