I like kids, I get kids, I’ve worked as a teachers assistant, I’ve babysat for the best part of a decade, I’ve taught pony club, so I guess you could say I’m qualified to handle kids! So why was this so hard, why was this lesson rapidly deteriorating into my own personal hell.
Ok so my summer job is some casual work at a riding centre in my old home town and it’s awesome, it’s everything extra I do at my riding school and when I volunteer during the year except I actually get paid for it! It’s awesome. Full disclosure I’m not saying all kids are like this or even all kids in this particular lesson were like this but it’s not the first time I’ve noticed and it only stuck with me after my colleague mentioned it: kids these days have changed.Ok so I feel like I’m about 70 years old now having a rant about “kids these days”… And “in my time”
I remember my riding lessons in the arena doing trot poles and figure eights and endless circles practicing rising and sitting trots and I have no memory of it being boring. I lived for every moment I just got to be around horses let alone riding them, it was a privilege, a privilege my parents worked hard to pay for. My instructors then were like gods (I was 10), with epic riding skills and endless knowledge the were my teachers and I respected them as such.
I guess that’s why when my colleague I took a lesson of about 10 six to twelve year olds I was so surprised by their behaviour. First their was an actual tantrum by a girl who wasn’t assigned the pony she wanted and she was closer to twelve years old than six she refused to ride unless it was it was on her terms and on “her” horse. I remember the disappointment of not getting my favourite lesson horse Bindi a grey mare and have a streak of jealousy to who ever did get to ride her but I would never throw a tantrum mainly because my mother wouldn’t allow it. My mum is not strict by any means but I was always taught that extra curricular activities were a privilege not a right and you don’t always get what you want.
During the lesson instead of concentrating on their position or the joy or riding we were bombarded with questions or rather demands: “I don’t want to play this game I want to canter, I want to jump, etc.”
I felt like I wasn’t there to teach them I was there to entertain them, that everything had to be fun and what they wanted and I was somehow failing in that, that no matter how fast I transitioned between exercises I couldn’t keep their attention. I was the teacher so why did I feel they were the bosses. I made everyone stop and made it clear that nothing was going to happen until everyone was lined up the same way on the centre line and listening, put on my strict face and cut off anyone that tried to speak I gave them free time allowing anyone who wanted to practice their canter or trot was to stay out the outside path of the arena and there had the be safe distances and controlled riding at all times, anyone else was free to ride in the centre of the ring and use the trot poles and other obstacles if they desired. We spent the rest of the lesson not teaching exactly but putting out spot fires. “You need to leave a minimum one horse space between you and the horse in front of you,” “if your on the inside of the arena your walking”…
To be honest if I was a parent or even my boss not a teacher I would have had everyone dismount and had them doing theory until they understood that riding can be dangerous and it’s important to listen to the instructor and how riding these beautiful animals is privilege and if you don’t actually want to learn how to ride just have fun perhaps a carousel horse is a better option.
Kids aren’t the only ones who have changed, I can’t imagine my mum questioning one of my riding instructors she was paying them for their expertise, to teach me and yet… I had to pull a student off a horse who was perfectly sound at the start of the lesson at a walk but was suddenly and profoundly lame at the trot, I’m talking limping big time. The only other horse that was tacked up was a pony who the girl was happily going to get on until her mum came up and asked if I had anything bigger for her to ride as if me asking her daughter to ride a pony was some comment on her riding ability and ponies were beneath her.
I had another parent in Perth who used to teach over me “grip with your knees when you go over the jump!” What!?
This is not to say I haven’t had some great kids, the girls who volunteer to help whenever their parents will allow just to earn some more saddle time, the little boy who hung on the every word you told him and who I fully believe will be a high level eventer one day, the kids in those lessons who did listen and did want to learn. Similarly there are the great parents that say thank you for your efforts teaching, for inspiring, for encouraging their child. For watching and encouraging from the sidelines.
I think probably why this issue is such a big thing for me is both teaching and horses are something I’m passionate about and probably because in these situations I end up feeling like a fraud and a failure. I spoke to my mum about it after the above mentioned lesson and she as a teachers assistant and child care worker she noticed a shift as well. She told me of her friends daughter and her husbands son. They take it in turns, each taking a day and whoever is on that day is in charge if entertaining him and being with him at at all times being a full on parent. There is at no point any time where the son has to entertain himself, it’s all about him all the time. She also reminded me that this is the iPad and technology generation where everything Is just a click away. Is this the way forward, the future, do I need to revise my lesson plans to give every child what they want as soon as they wants it? Is there a new generation that expect instant gratification all the time? Am I at 24 so hopelessly out of touch I couldn’t possibly understand?
Maybe I am, maybe I should take my Harry Potter books and other relics of being a 90’s kid and reminisce about simpler times!