My education and background is as an educator. I left public school education not because I didn’t love to educate, but because although I loved to educate and was passionate about education, there was a topic I was more passionate about teaching than chemistry (and I really like chemistry and the sciences!). Dogs and dog agility in particular are a passion and a calling for me, and so I left high school education several years ago to continue practicing my calling as an educator in a different arena.
My aspirations, goals, and objectives as a teacher are to encourage mastery, competency, transformational and life-long learning, general skill transference of skills (application), and critical thinking. As a science teacher, I knew not every student would be a scientist; not every person NEEDS to be a scientist. But, every person, in my opinion, needs critical thinking skills.
My aspirations, goals, and objectives for you as my student is that you will gain that mastery, confidence, and competency to take what you’ve learned from me and continue to apply it in new and wonderful ways. Selfishly, I hope that in helping you to become a competent handler with excellent critical thinking skills, you can turn around and help me by questioning me and my methods, and by suggesting better ways of doing things in a collaborative way! I don’t want you to just do things because I told you to – it’s important to me that you ask why, and it should be important to you as well.
I prefer to assess understanding through a continuous feedback loop with you, the student. Of course, it’s fun to give out grades and gold stars, but since we’re not working for grades or degrees or certificates here, understanding itself is the primary objective. I’ll ask you questions. I’ll ask you to submit videos. I’ll ask you to fill out forms. I’ll ask you to clarify what you’ve submitted. I’ll ask you to explain yourself. I’ll ask you what you think you’re observing with respect to your training of your dog, or your handling of your dog, and then I’ll let you know what I think. I want to make sure that in the process of learning new and potentially better ways of doing things, you don’t get yourself in to a space where you think, “oh my goodness, I’ve been doing things wrong all these years”. That’s just silly; life is progress!
I want to continue to improve my own skills as an educator. Just because I’ve jumped ship on public education, where recertification through proof of mastery and testing is common, doesn’t mean I’m not keen to make sure that I’m doing the best I can for my students (and therefore myself). Student evaluations are the biggest means of feedback that I have, and so at the end of each session I will be asking for feedback on the content as well as the presentation of my classes. I don’t expect to get it 100% right for 100% of my students, but I do expect, and so can you, that I will do my darnedest to come close.
I know I’ve done my job when a student is pushed just a bit beyond their comfort zone. When they report they’ve had an “ah ha!” moment, or seen something in a new light that was there before them waiting to be seen, all along. When a student points out MY mistakes, I know I’ve done my job trying to surround myself with excellence, and with people I can in turn learn from myself as a student. Sometimes, effective teaching and learning isn’t entirely pleasant in the rainbows and fluffy clouds sense, but it IS rewarding, and I know I’ve done my job effectively when all parties, dog, handler, and instructor, feel the reward.
Teaching is important to me for reasons that are not entirely within my understanding. I love teaching. Even when I’m exhausted, there’s something about the process of giving knowledge that is received, processed, questioned, and then given back to me that is completely invigorating.
I might be a teacher but I don’t know everything, and I’m OK with that. How boring and stagnant it would be to know everything. There will be times when I don’t know the answer, and those are exciting times, because then I get the opportunity to collaborate with a student to FIND an answer. The more people I meet, and the more people I instruct, the more I learn, and the more everybody else learns; but also, the more there IS to learn. So, I hope I never know it all – the process of finding out is so invigorating 🙂