Thursday, May 1, 2014

Becoming a Great Student

 by Jerry Tindell
Horse and Mule Trainer, Oak Hills, CA
Howdy friends and neighbors. Have you ever taken a class to improve your skills or to learn something new and came away wishing you had gotten more out of it? Maybe there were distractions like someone sitting next to you who can’t wait to tell you their troubles or their life story. Or even worse, they are telling you how much they know about the subject and are talking over the person you are there to learn from. It is very distracting and very annoying. I know because I have been there.
We take classes and attend clinics because we love our mules; we want to improve our skills, confidence, and courage. Being both a student and a teacher, I have benefitted from both aspects of the learning process. The teacher is there to share their knowledge with the student and has certain expectations for them. The teacher expects them to come to class and be ready to learn, to be an active participant, and to apply what they have learned in the lesson by practicing. The teacher is there to help you succeed. So how can we improve our learning as students? It really falls into three categories: before, during, and after the lesson.
Once you decide you would like to take a class, do some research. Find out about the teacher’s style. Is this someone you want to watch, learn, and take advice from? Once you decide to sign up for a class with him or her, find out what will be covered in the class. Is it something that pertains to what interests you? What do you want to get out of the class?
Prepare yourself before you arrive. Leave your problems and worries at home. Come with an open mind; leave your opinions at the barn and expect to learn something new. When you arrive turn off your cell phone or put it on silent. This way it won’t distract you or anyone else. Once the class starts stay focused. If someone is distracting you, move away from them. It’s your time and money, so make an effort to get the most out of it. Apply yourself and become actively involved with 100 percent commitment. Take notes; ask questions and get clarification; ask for help with your specific problems. However, do not ask for advice if you have no intention of taking it. We need to be open minded and be willing to accept what the person might be there to teach us. Take the advice if you like it; if you don’t, then leave it alone, but at least give yourself the opportunity to do one or the other. Be open minded, because if you are going to stick with your own opinion it doesn’t do any good to show up and ask for someone else’s opinion anyway. So be willing to listen and apply, or to consider those changes that might be necessary.
When you get home review your notes within 24 hours. You might remember more than what you wrote down. Build an outline, create a plan, and use it. Be willing to try something new or be willing to consider changes to make improvements. As I mentioned, I’m a student and I consider myself a great student. Do you know what the difference is between a good student and a great student? A good student is a person that studies during class. A great student is a person that studies in between classes. So become that great student. You will get a lot more out of your lessons and they will have more meaning to you.
I think it motivates the person that you are learning from when the students are more engaged. The next time you are able to go and work with someone be prepared; be attentive and serious; apply yourself and be willing to work toward your goals. Enjoy spending time with your mule, have fun, and don’t get a kick out of it.
Jerry Tindell of Tindell’s Horse and Mule School is a professional horse and mule trainer. He has been training and shoeing horses and mules since 1971. His unique training abilities help mule owners understand and apply proven techniques to communicate in a soft, safe, and secure manner with their animals. He can be reached at, or by phone at 760.403.3922, or by email at

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