A frequently discussed topic among instructors is student motivation. Articles and interpretations of this subject are printed, portions of seminars devoted to it, and suggestions are continually being given. Yet far more important than student motivation is instructor motivation. Before we can address ourselves toward motivating the student, we must be able to understand how to motivate ourselves.
Many do not realize that motivated students are the product of a motivated instructor. Enthused instructors are role models for their students. Class instructors may be the only persons involved in obedience the student is exposed to, and it is from the instructor that attitudes and interests are adopted. No matter what methods are employed or gimmicks used, a jaded instructor inspires no one and discourages many. No matter how cleverly disguised with innovative training techniques, assistants, and an ideal training area, a bored instructor quickly loses the interest and enthusiasm of the class. Yet a fresh, eager instructor who trains in a less than ideal spot with standard techniques will be able to inspire and motivate the students because of a zestful approach.
It is crucial that the instructor view each class as a new experience. Keep in mind that although you may have taught the sit-stay 167 times, this is the first time your class will learn it. They are ready for a new experience and will view it as such. If the instructor is open for new problems that require new solutions to arise, the potential for teaching by rote can be better avoided.
One way to keep the teaching experience new is to alter your teaching method slightly every so often. For example, when teaching the sit-stay, sometimes I introduce the hand signal the first time the class learns it, and other times I wait until next week. If you are flexible enough to try something a little different, you can better avoid teaching by rote. Even altering a small detail such as the example given can change the class approach enough so that you are teaching wholeheartedly.
It is beneficial to expand your knowledge of teaching methods by watching other teachers that are not obedience instructors. It is refreshing to sit in on a riding lesson, tennis class, or an American history lecture. How important concepts are explained, analogies drawn and examples used are visible aspects of teaching whether it is the recall or an algebraic equation being taught. One tennis instructor I watched quieted her class instantly by saying, “All those who are listening raise your rackets.” This works well for me by substituting the word leash for racket. It is a minor point, but the inclusion of even this small change helped me avoid the rut of saying the same thing at the same time.
It is imperative that instructors realize that student motivation is secondary to instructing motivation. Motivated students are the product of motivated instructors, and bored instructors cannot turn out motivated students. While it is indeed important that we search for various ways to vary our classes and provide interesting experiences, we must strive to keep instructor motivation at the top of our priority list.
©1980 S. Myles