This blog is dedicated to my friend, my mentor, and the best teacher I have ever had. Without him, I would not have embarked on this amazing journey. Split, this blog is for you!
Ponderosa Misty Icon, aka "Split," is a handsome gray Welsh pony who came to me via a phone call "out of the blue" (actually Peterborough, Ontario). Our first few months together were rocky to say the least, which made me question my ability as a horse owner, as a horsewoman, and as a rider. Forty years of horse ownership had not prepared me for this little gray pony!
But we muddled through and because of Split, I have begun a journey that is both spiritual and enlightening. I hope something here resonates with you and that you'll check back now and then.
We leave you with one of our favorite quotes: "The best whisper is a click!"

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"Mrs. Ruley-Pants"

My teaching career at Holy Spirit School spanned 20 years and 4 age groups. Because my daughters attended the school, my involvement went beyond my own classroom. I was the PTA president for years, Bingo captain (there's something for my resume! LOL), my husband was V.P. of the school board, etc. When I "retired," I stopped teaching there full-time but I never actually left the building (much like the fabled Elvis). I'm still their main substitute teacher and am also the Drama Club director and do 3 productions a year with various age groups. So despite the fact that I'm not a full-time employee, I still know all the students from grades 1-8. Kindergarten is a different kettle of fish.....on many levels! Because they don't participate in Drama Club, I don't get to know them very well and when I sub for them, I really need to be on my toes. Even at 5 and 6 years old, they'll try to pull the wool over your eyes! The one thing I do know, however, are the rules and regs of the school and the Kindergarten classroom! Maryann (Kindergarten teacher) and I worked closely together for 20 years and I know how she runs that program so when I arrive in the morning, I immediately make it clear (kindly but firmly) that I'm in charge and that I KNOW THE RULES! This is actually comforting for most the children because at that age, they rely on structure and routine. A sudden change in what's expected behaviorally or in their daily schedule can truly throw off the energy in the room and things can get "ugly" pretty quickly. If the children are used to (for example) being able to sit anywhere in the room that they like and I arrive and insist that they MUST sit in alphabetic order, tears will soon follow, and sometimes even temper tantrums. They weren't TOLD there was going to be a change so simply sitting in the "wrong" chair has earned them the teacher's wrath! That's not fair in their world. So I try to observe and uphold their rules and if there are changes needed, we do it gradually, with fair warning, and try to involve the children in that change of plans.
When I taught first grade, if there was going to be a change in our daily routine, I always gave the kids a "heads-up" about it and explained the reason for that change. They appreciated being kept in the loop and it made the transition much smoother.
The current second grade teacher at Holy Spirit has a child in Kindergarten this year. She asked her son how he liked having "Mrs. Hayden" as a substitute teacher and he looked at her, rolled his eyes and said, "Oh, you mean "Mrs. Ruley-pants?" Sue didn't know what to make of this so she said, "Mrs. Ruley-pants? What does that mean?" Connor responded, "She's all about the rules. When she's in the room, it's all rules, rules, rules."
HA HA HA When I finally stopped laughing, I told her I would take that as a compliment!
And later I got to thinking about "Mrs. Ruley-pants." Even tho I may appear to be strict, the kids know what to expect from me. I don't blow in there and turn their world upside-down by suddenly changing the rules which would throw them into chaos. Hmmm......Could this apply to our animals as well?????????
It's sometimes said of horses that resort to mugging or biting or pawing or other "over threshold" behaviors that they're "not getting it" or they're being "bad." But often an experienced trainer will say, "Ah, but you changed the rules!" Perhaps a horse was being rewarded for walking up and bumping his handler with his nose but suddenly, in the eyes of the trainer, this is no longer acceptable. So...the horse walks up, bumps the handler, and expects a treat but instead is told to BACK OFF. Horse is confused but tries again, only to be told BACK OFF. "Wait a second, here," Horse thinks. "This isn't right!" So he gets a bit peeved, reaches out and tries to grab a treat for himself because, hey, he did what has worked in the past. OOPS! Owner gets angry and really enforces BACK OFF!!!! Horse gets mad, bucks, farts and runs away. Owner scratches head and goes, "What just happened? Why is Bucky being so uncooperative?" (Why can I tell this story so well?? Uh..........Yeah, that clueless owner would be ME!) Well, we've suddenly and without warning CHANGED THE RULES!
Is it possible to change the rules? Yes. And with children we can tell them, "I know you've done XYZ in the past but today because there is something going on in the gym, we have to do ABC. Do you understand? Does anyone have any questions? Even tho we're doing ABC instead of XYZ, I still expect you to be on your best behavior, etc." With our animals......not so much. We can't sit them down and have a verbal dialogue. So we have to think outside the box. It's possible to faze out an unwanted behavior (and I won't get into the logistics of that - there are very knowledgeable trainers out there who go into detail about that on their web sites or you can get a book on clicker training) but we have to remember to be fair about it. So when Split seems to get *miffed* at me now, I make an effort to stop and think.........."Did I just change the rules?" I try to see things from HIS perspective instead of just my own. I'm actually quite good at seeing things from a child's perspective but that may be because I suffer from a severe case of "Peter Pan Syndrome." LOL Now I'm trying to see things from my animals' perspective and it's hard work. I have to rewire my brain a little....Ok, a lot! But it's worth it because I think I'm beginning to have a better rapport with Split and Jingle and they actually seem to appreciate the effort, much like the children in Kindergarten. Except for Connor...........:0)
Mrs. Ruley-pants

It's not wise to violate rules until you know how to observe them.
T. S. Eliot

1 comment:

  1. Mrs. Ruley-Pants! I love it. I wish I'd had someone like you for a teacher.