Wrapping Up 2013 & Questions About Blogging

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One year ago I was writing about a major setback that I experienced with Ngugi. For reasons still unclear, she would completely freeze up and not want to move forward–sometimes even refusing to take a step away from the mounting block. It was the most frustrating few weeks of training because it was not clear to me whether it was a physical or mental shutdown. Here’s the link back to last winter’s “freeze” where I wrote

Legs that once moved freely and with agility now stand thick and clamped in the sand.

I wish that I had taken video of those days so that I could juxtapose it with the video here that trainer Laura recorded a few weeks ago. I think it might be unbelievable to some that she is the same horse.
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And yet, I find myself stumbling over what to write these days. I haven’t posted any updates this month, and I’ll admit that I’m typing without direction, without purpose. I’m typing to update, but I don’t feel compelled to write. (Although, there is a HUGE part of me that wants to critique all the faults in my riding in the above video–like my low hands, lack of release, heavy seat, etc., etc.). I wonder why it’s easier for me to blog when things are going wrong? Is it because I need the exercise of blogging more when there’s a problem to solve? I do believe in “writing to learn” and “writing for self-discovery,” so I suppose it does make sense that if there isn’t an emergency in our partnership as horse and rider for me to analyze, my drive isn’t really there.

So I leave my readers with a few questions… Are you more compelled to write when things are falling apart? Does the act of blogging help you feel as though you are tidying up what may have unraveled for you and your partner in the ring? If so, why is this? And how do we get more comfortable and effective at blogging when things are calm and within our control?

Community

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Most educators would agree that building a sense of community in a classroom is essential.  As much as we cater to our students as individuals with varying needs, abilities, learning styles, talents, interests, etc., we must also be aware of what we are doing to bring the group together. 

We must ask ourselves: To what degree are my students connected to other learners sharing their space?  Do they believe they have something to teach and learn from others?  How sensitive and compassionate are they to others?  Am I creating a space where respectful social interactions are modeled, practiced, and then maintained?  Does every individual in the classroom believe, to some degree, that he/she has a responsibility to the well-being of the group, the whole, the community?

These questions are at the forefront of my mind each year I teach a new set of students.  But it’s interesting how community has been on my mind lately.

Just last week I spoke about community while welcoming an audience to my piano students’ summer recital.  In the weeks leading up to the recital, I had thought a lot about how different of an experience it is teaching private piano lessons as opposed to teaching writing to a classroom full of 13 and 14-year-olds.  In the private piano studio, my students miss what I find to be so profound and invigorating in the classroom.  They miss this sense of belonging to something larger.  Even the instrument in discussion here, the piano, has a reputation of being played as a solo instrument (perhaps in someone’s living room). I know for me, studying piano taught me how to be content in a solitary space–a space where I might spend an hour analyzing and correcting the arch in my hand until my glissando really did sound like a waterfall. Unlike a classroom setting, I never wrote a reflection or shared my discoveries with peers. I simply waited until my next lesson to show off my newly-developed technique to my teacher. Again, very private. So hosting a recital for my students broke the solitary nature of studying piano. For that night, as fleeting as it may have been, I know they felt connected to others, to a school of learners.

Community hasn’t just been on my mind because of the recital. I’ve also thought a lot about community as it relates to blogging. Sure, we as bloggers write to inform, reflect, negotiate new ideas, entertain, and learn, but the rather unexpected reward that I’ve found in blogging is the sense of community. When I first started writing about my experience re-training Gugi, I felt like I was, more or less, writing in a vacuum. Perhaps the vacuum being my own mind. I didn’t have any horse-loving followers, nor had I started following any other riders’ quests with their horses. But lately I’ve found myself hooked on reading both the posts complete strangers write on their own horse blogs and the comments they leave on my blog. Link to my last post Liebster Award to see some of my top reads. Ngugi’s Word is starting to actually be read by people–people I may never meet–and this feeling of being connected with others who can relate to my experiences and emotions is something quite powerful. The networking and overall support is something I certainly would be deprived of had I started writing Ngugi’s Word in a journal, or never at all.

And so I close tonight with a short excerpt from a comment I received on Peaks and Valleys. It’s the type of comment that speaks to my post on community and belonging to something larger. Exechorseluver wrote,

Trust in yourself-you are a competent rider with a solid seat and hands. Accidents will happen, do not over anaylze. Even if you never canter this horse again, or it takes five years, enjoy her trots. Do what you are confident in instead of worrying about what you are afraid of. Be successful at the trot. It will breed confidence.

Given my struggles with confidence lately, Exechorseluver‘s comment could not have come at a better time. It’s true. I need to focus more on what I CAN do, rather than what I CAN’T do YET. Thank you, WordPress community. I feel ya’!