Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Blog Action Day: Collaboration, Mistakes & The Blues

It's blog action day again!  (  Today's question is "What makes a good instructor?"

I’m very lucky to have worked with two excellent instructors lately.  They’re quite different, and I appreciate different things about them.

There are lots of good instructor traits that are pretty straight forward:  someone who has lots of experience to share, someone who makes you better, someone who is invested in you and your dog, etc.  Those are good, and there are more of them, but I thought I’d focus on three other things that I’ve appreciated recently.

1.     An instructor who will collaborate with you.
     Grace has a ton to teach me.  She has this fantastic attitude, though, that makes me really believe that she appreciates my point of view, too--both as a handler in general and as the person who knows my dog best.  When I work with her, it’s like we’re working together. We’re both a little bit dorky, analyzing each little piece of a run in search of that impossible 'perfection.'  When a line wasn't as tight as we'd like, she’ll say, “What if you try this?”  And sometimes it will be a clear improvement.  But then other times she’ll say, “Yeah, I liked your way better.”  I feel like we’re a team trying to solve puzzles together, even if I’m the one paying her and doing the vast majority of the learning. Grace makes me feel like a good handler.  It’s a nice confidence boost.

2.     An instructor who lets you screw up.
     I’ve had a few lessons with Laura this summer. I don’t really think of her as my instructor, but I’ve learned so much in several sessions that I have a heck of a lot to owe her.  I love her handling style, and I think it’s awesome that she’s on the world team.  Anyway, what I like most about Laura is that she has the attitude of “I’m going to do what I think will work best for my dog, no matter what other people do.”  She teaches with that attitude, too.  A few weeks ago there was a tricky section and I walked it differently from everyone else.  When I told her my plan, she said something like, “Cool.  I’d like to see how that works.”  Well, it didn’t work.  Her way worked.  But she let me do it my way first, and I appreciated that.  I learned more by screwing up on my own terms than I would have if she’d just had me do it her way from the beginning.   

3.     An instructor who shares the down times with you.
     Lately things haven’t been going well for us at trials.  It’s really quite embarrassing.  In practice we’re flying through international courses with  tight lines and fantastic running contacts. But then, we’re 1/10 in our last 10 runs at trials.  That’s awful!  Jonah is just so stressed that he can’t get it together.  Neither Grace nor Laura has a quick fix for us (if someone does, let me know!), but they were both there this weekend to watch my runs, tell me I was doing a great job staying positive, and then just agree with me that this sucks!  I’d rather be able to fix it, but sometimes it’s nice to have your instructors be just as lost for words as you are.

Edit:  I want to be clear that, by commiserating with me, my instructors aren't blaming Jonah or suggesting that there's nothing I can do.  They're just standing with me, acknowledging that it's frustrating, and helping me be patient :).


  1. sounds like you have some great instructors, GREAT POST thanks!!! Kathy with Liz/Breeze/Cricket

  2. Whew, I feel better that I'm not the only one behind in their blogging or reading :-) lol. I really liked your insight on how both instructors inpact you. It is also very special that you can find not one but two that will support you during a trial with your frustrations. Good luck with Johah!!