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Lesson scheduling, time management, client impressions

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  • #21
    You might also consider a rule that if they show up late, that shortens the lesson. It's not fair to riders later in the schedule to keep pushing them back.

    That said, I am not a stickler for riding a certain number of minutes. I would rather end after we get through a task and/or accomplish a good exercise than stick to a set number of minutes. Particularly teaching people on their own horses, I think it makes sense to stop when the horse is in a good place instead of by the clock. Horse being a saint today? Stop early and put him away with lots of praise. Naughty pony? Extra work and few walk breaks. End on a high note. When I taught I gave a range (lessons are from 40 minutes to an hour with an average of 50 minutes) to accomodate this.

    Finally, I would definitely send an email/memo about this to everyone before you make the changes, saying "we've had some scheduling issues, this is what we are going to try to fix it" and outline your plan. That way parents who are used to chatting with you after lessons will not feel slighted if you cut them off. If you just start doing that without notice they might take it personally.

    Comment


    • #22
      You might also consider a rule that if they show up late, that shortens the lesson. It's not fair to riders later in the schedule to keep pushing them back.

      That said, I am not a stickler for riding a certain number of minutes. I would rather end after we get through a task and/or accomplish a good exercise than stick to a set number of minutes. Particularly teaching people on their own horses, I think it makes sense to stop when the horse is in a good place instead of by the clock. Horse being a saint today? Stop early and put him away with lots of praise. Naughty pony? Extra work and few walk breaks. End on a high note. When I taught I gave a range (lessons are from 40 minutes to an hour with an average of 50 minutes) to accomodate this.

      Finally, I would definitely send an email/memo about this to everyone before you make the changes, saying "we've had some scheduling issues, this is what we are going to try to fix it" and outline your plan. That way parents who are used to chatting with you after lessons will not feel slighted if you cut them off. If you just start doing that without notice they might take it personally.

      Comment


      • #23
        Originally posted by eastendjumper View Post
        I was teaching a lesson last summer, a semi-private, and both of the student's parents was observing, and when we were taking a walk break one of the dad's came over to the fence to ask a specific question about his daughter. I was doing the whole, turn to him to say something, turn back my eyes to the students, back to Dad thing, and right when my head was turned away from the riders, the other students' horse spooked and almost unseated the rider (this was her own horse). I asked her what happened, if she knew what startled the horse, checked out the corner it happened in to see if there was anything there, asked if she was okay, (said and seemed like she was fine, no worries) and I didn't think anything else of it until at the end of the lesson, when the other student's mom reemed me for letting my attention go away from the rider's . Later that night, a get a call from the Dad and get chewed out again. Had these been quirky parent's to begin with I may not have worried too much about the matter, but they are generally very reasonable people. Thank you all!
        Keep in mind that while it happened when you weren't watching, that the two are unrelated. The horses didn't spook BECAUSE you weren't watching. The only difference is that you didn't see it. Had you been watching rider A walk to comment on her form or remind her of something, horse B could have still spooked behind your back. Would the Dad of B still be annoyed because you were focused on A when the mishap occured?

        Can you create some extra office time by combining a couple of lessons (privates to semi-, etc) and thus give yourself some time between while still teaching the same number of riders?

        ETA: Keep in mind that for lesson student on schoolies, saddle time is of the utmost mportance. That lesson time is their riding time. They don't get practice time.
        I'm "on hiatus" right now but my most recent trainer always made time between jump trips to discuss progress and issues. The last jump trip usually involved her asking us to choose some part of the lesson that had been a challenge or that we still wanted to improve. It made us all think about our ride and our horse and challenge ourselves to build on what we had covered.
        Last edited by Linny; Mar. 13, 2013, 01:34 PM.
        F O.B
        Resident racing historian ~~~ Re-riders Clique
        Founder of the Mighty Thoroughbred Clique

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        • Original Poster

          #24
          Generally, the lesson formats go something similar to this:

          Every lesson has a broad focus, for example, dressage, equitation, poles/cavaletti/gymnastics, or putting it all together in a course.

          The first few minutes riders warm up by either posting the walk or standing in 2 point while horses go at the buckle, and we talk about the goals of the day, what new things we are going to go over, reviewing what we accomplished or struggled with at the previous lesson. Students are asked why they think what we are going to do might be important or helpful, and how learning these skills might benefit the horse.

          Lesson continues, working on the exercises.

          Towards the end of the lesson, students demonstrate what they have learned by doing an exercise or two "being your own coach" as we call it, and when they are done, they give me a critique of themselves and we discuss what went well, and what we are going to work more in in the future.

          Last few minutes is a review, we ask each other questions to make sure everyone is feeling good and understands the objectives of the lesson. Students then dismount and cool off while next group gets going.

          I don't think (I really hope not!) that the students themselves ever feel like they aren't getting the time and attention they would like, at least after their lesson starts, and most students are great with, and seem really comfortable, asking questions or making comments. Its just the parents that I am worried about handling professionally and politely without taking any time from the students themselves.

          Comment


          • #25
            I would suggest brief snippets of convos allowed during warm-up times, mostly for confirmation-type things. "Oh, yes, we are still on for Suzie's private lesson tomorrow". "Yup, entries were all set for the show this weekend". Stuff that *could* be texted if you weren't in a professional context. By doing it during warm up, you don't have to worry about it impinging on the next lesson, and if parents see the lesson simply won't start until their questions are done, it may promote briefer QA sessions. And if there are no questions/comments/concerns, the lesson kids get to start the lesson sooner!

            If they want to discuss new business, they should call you. Or, arrange a private lesson so they can "deconstruct" with you if that's what they are looking for. I just feel like... beyond a progress update ("Suzie is doing great!" or "Suzie needs to work on relaxing in the saddle" or whatever)... what's the point of an involved update? It's not like they are going to be able to address any of this at home unless they have a horse at home, unlike school homework.

            Comment


            • #26
              I have two comments. First, to address the original question, I have "office hours" and I encourage my students and/or parents to visit or call me during those times. I actually learned this as a kid - my vet did the same thing. It works because parents (mainly) appreciate that there is uninterrupted time for them to talk about their child and it doesn't take away from the next lesson.

              My second comment has to do with something someone earlier in the thread said about punctuality. Our sport requires discipline and I believe punctuality is very important. I try very hard to stay on time and if a student shows up late, they give up the time but there are also situations that arise that cause lessons to run late. Horses don't have a sense of time and sometimes they don't cooperate. Sometimes, a rider can't get an exercise quite right . In these cases, we run over the allotted time because I don't want to send a horse or rider home with a negative experience (although, obviously, at some point you can't continue). Everyone at the barn knows this and generally appreciates the concept (since it will eventually affect everyone). It works because I have communicated the policy effectively to everyone and they understand it. Communication is very important and it must be open, candid, honest and frequent. That will help overcome most problems the OP may have with students.

              Comment


              • #27
                Wow... all of that chit-chat was never allowed at the barns where I learned to ride! Parents did NOT come out to the arena to chat. Office hours were absolutely encouraged, as was leaving the trainer a voicemail or email so trainer could reply at their own convenience (usually within 1 business day; trainer checked their messages nightly). While they certainly weren't high-level, expensive show barns, they weren't backyard affairs either: the focus was on creating competent horsepeople capable of holding their own at medium-level shows.
                I actually think some barns had a policy against parents watching students because of the potential for distraction and because of the actions of past "railbird parents".

                Comment


                • #28
                  Originally posted by bluebuckets View Post
                  Wow... all of that chit-chat was never allowed at the barns where I learned to ride! Parents did NOT come out to the arena to chat. Office hours were absolutely encouraged, as was leaving the trainer a voicemail or email so trainer could reply at their own convenience (usually within 1 business day; trainer checked their messages nightly). While they certainly weren't high-level, expensive show barns, they weren't backyard affairs either: the focus was on creating competent horsepeople capable of holding their own at medium-level shows.
                  I actually think some barns had a policy against parents watching students because of the potential for distraction and because of the actions of past "railbird parents".
                  I think there is a fine line, though. As a parent who is paying for the lesson, I want to be able to watch, see that my child is getting good instruction and is safe, and I also want to be able to check in with the instructor to make sure everything is ok (not during the lesson, of course). Since we know our kids best, we can sometimes see things the instructor isn't seeing -- e.g. especially if we think they are scared or overwhelmed. (Lots of kids get very quiet when they are scared and the instructor may not know what they are feeling).

                  However, I also appreciate that the lessons should run on time and smoothly, and it is really annoying to show up for a lesson and find that they are way behind. (And these things usually happen in really crappy weather when you have five other places to get to).

                  I love the idea of having an email address for parents to ask questions - maybe something separate from your regular email so that you don't feel so much urgency to respond immediately (e.g. if you have a scheduling change or an emergency, call the barn. If you have questions or comments about your child's lessons, please send me an email).

                  I love the idea of office hours, as well, but think that the once a week lesson parents probably won't come to those if they are on a different day than their child's lessons.

                  And I agree that you probably need to build in a buffer between lessons (5-10 minutes) otherwise you will run over; that's just how life is. Not to mention - you must need a bathroom break sometime too!

                  Comment


                  • #29
                    Originally posted by bluebuckets View Post
                    I actually think some barns had a policy against parents watching students because of the potential for distraction and because of the actions of past "railbird parents".
                    That sooooo wouldn't fly this day and age, especially with the really little kids.

                    My mom dropped me off...or I got a ride with friend's mom who sat in the car while we rode. I don't remember ANY parents ever really sticking around to watch lessons...BUT I also don't remember any really little kids at my barn. I was 10-ish when I started and old enough to be independent.

                    With smaller children it can be useful to have a parent there, but it's can be distracting. If a child is scared, it can be better for them to learn to deal with the fear and push through it rather than have someone feed into it. Being without a parent to 1)validate/play into a child's fears 2)direct them, helps children to learn to cope on their own.
                    Keith: "Now...let's do something normal fathers and daughters do."
                    Veronica: "Buy me a pony?"

                    Comment


                    • #30
                      Originally posted by RugBug View Post
                      ...

                      My mom dropped me off...or I got a ride with friend's mom who sat in the car while we rode. I don't remember ANY parents ever really sticking around to watch lessons...BUT I also don't remember any really little kids at my barn. I was 10-ish when I started and old enough to be independent.
                      Same here! This was back in the early '70s and there were no cell phones, answering machines, voicemail or email! Communication was much harder back then, but we survived. Once we started showing and leasing/buying/selling horses, my parents had much more need to consult with my trainer, but it was always with a phone call (you had to just call back until someone picked up the phone ) or inviting her over for dinner to talk about a big decision.

                      My 10 year old son takes riding lessons and I do all scheduling through email. I don't usually watch his entire lesson because I take the opportunity to ride or groom my leased horse while we're at the barn. I do see his instructor around the barn and she'll ask questions if she's having a hard time with him on something, but I generally leave that up to her to initiate...I chose her because I trust her judgement, she knows what she's doing, she's taught a lot of kids to ride. I don't need to take up a lot of her personal time, and certainly not other clients' time, micromanaging his instruction. It probably helps that I am horsey myself and don't need lots of explanation or reassurance, non-horsey parents must be much harder to work with. But, then again, my non-horsey mother just let my instructor do her thing...times have changed, however.

                      Comment


                      • #31
                        I think that scheduling 50 min lessons is pretty common, but I've often ended lessons a bit early if we accomplished something good and it was the right time to stop, or even run over a few minutes if we needed to finish up something. It's the quality of the lesson that's important, not the minutes. And I think that parents should be allowed to watch, but there should never be parents marching into the ring to talk while you're teaching, and NO coaching from the sidelines by parents (my personal pet peeve). That said, there needs to be a time when they can reach you to discuss their concerns, either by having set office hours, or by having them leave you messages that you return promptly.

                        As for students who are late, they get a shorter lesson. It is completely wrong to penalize everyone else for the rest of the day because an early person couldn't get there on time. But this is another reason to focus less on the minutes in the saddle and more on what you accomplish as an instructor

                        Comment


                        • #32
                          Things have changed re: parents and (IMO) not always for the better. As a kid riding parents were encouraged to watch but from the huge viewing lounge that ran the width of a big indoor or from bleachers at the end of a very large (huge!) outdoor. Under both scenarios parents were not really able to communicate with the child, and it was assumed that they would not do so anyhow. Too many parents want to take away the trainer's ability to help a child work through challenges or fear. (Evidence is the OP's post that I copied above where a parent was mad because a horse spooked when OP wasn't watching the child.) Horses will spook or have tantrums etc and if parents cannot accept that, then maybe they need to try something else for their child.

                          As to communication, I like the notepad idea. My trainer has a pad near her "Lesson book" aka "the Barn Bible" for notes. If Susie is going to miss next weeks lesson, write it on the pad and she'll see it and note it in the book. Good chance she'd forget it if told between lessons in the arena. As long as the trainer is good at follow up and calling back (not all trainers are ) I find it the easiest way.
                          F O.B
                          Resident racing historian ~~~ Re-riders Clique
                          Founder of the Mighty Thoroughbred Clique

                          Comment


                          • #33
                            For anyone with a problem of parents on the rail starting up conversations inappropriately in the middle of a lesson: if you want to subtly discourage parents from talking during the lesson, set up seating where they have a great view but can't directly interact. Can be even more effective if they can sit and watch from inside their car.

                            You can even set up plantings to make it impossible to stand right outside the rail and lean on it.

                            On the other hand, maybe you want to encourage parents to watch more and take more of an interest. Then reverse the suggestions so that parents can sit comfortably in the shade right on the rail, within hearing range, and get the full impact of the lesson. The kids often really appreciate that their parents are right there watching and seeing their achievements.

                            Landscaping can make a tremendous difference ... use it to your benefit.

                            I don't think a rule that prohibits parents from watching a lesson would go over well, but you can prohibit parents from the barn area if that is helpful. I do recommend a rule that says you can't talk to your kids during a lesson.
                            If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket

                            Comment


                            • #34
                              "
                              Originally Posted by eastendjumper
                              I was teaching a lesson last summer, a semi-private, and both of the student's parents was observing, and when we were taking a walk break one of the dad's came over to the fence to ask a specific question about his daughter. I was doing the whole, turn to him to say something, turn back my eyes to the students, back to Dad thing, and right when my head was turned away from the riders, the other students' horse spooked and almost unseated the rider (this was her own horse). I asked her what happened, if she knew what startled the horse, checked out the corner it happened in to see if there was anything there, asked if she was okay, (said and seemed like she was fine, no worries) and I didn't think anything else of it until at the end of the lesson, when the other student's mom reemed me for letting my attention go away from the rider's . Later that night, a get a call from the Dad and get chewed out again. Had these been quirky parent's to begin with I may not have worried too much about the matter, but they are generally very reasonable people. Thank you all!"


                              What is with people these days? I feel bad that you got reemed. The same thing could have happened if you were sending these kids through a jumping grid. Would you be able to focus on the person jumping and the other person at the same time? No. I wonder if some of the reaction has to do with subconscious territorial issue with the parents, as in why are you talking to the other child's parents and not them.

                              A similar thing could have also happened in the warm-up ring at a show. Can you control every possible thing that could happen? No to that too.

                              Why would parents think they could get somewhere with "reaming" a trainer? Do they think that motivates the trainer? I could parents getting difficult for something that is an ongoing issue, but a one-time thing that hasn't come up before? weird. A much more appropriate thing would be to say "We were concerned that your attention seemed to be on something else when our daughter's horse spooked. What happened?" That approach encourages a positive conversation between mature adults. Reaming someone only creates negativity

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #35
                                So I think my game-plan and policy that parents are asked not to interrupt or start a conversation during lessons will have to continue; A, liability-wise, since a parent has expressed concern over the practice I can't risk it now, and B because most parents don't watch lessons anyway. If parents want to speak with me, I will start to put in a small buffer at the end of their kid's lesson, but the conversation will either need to be wrapped up or continued anoth time before the next lesson starts.

                                If a student is running late themsleves, I generally do what I can to still give them as much time as I can, but if I am going to be strict about lessons starting on time, they will understand better if I expect the same of them.

                                I think I definitely get into some kind of teaching trance, sometimes a person (usually working students wanting to ask or check on something) will be standing by the rail for several minutes before I even notice them, and I know clients realize that that is just how I am. I also do not tolerate parents teaching from the sidelines! We have a rule that parents are more than welcome to observe, but they have to stay in one of several sitting areas we have set up, and no one is allowed to hang or sit on the rail. This has helped immensely.

                                Office hours will go into effect!

                                Thank you everyone again!

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