A Lesson From A Horse Trainer
More on the theme of teaching empathy: Writer Sam Chaltain has a lovely essay about a new movie, “Buck,” which is real-life story of the horse trainer who became an inspiration for the novel and movie “The Horse Whisperer.” Sam writes:
“What makes ‘Buck’ such a powerful film is the way he proves what we already know to be true about how people learn—and struggle to live out. Too often, instead of providing the parental or pedagogical equivalent of what Buck does with horses—call it ‘kid whispering’—our actions result in whispering kids. Instead of a deep sensitivity to the invisible, orderly dance that occurs between two beings learning to trust one another, our efforts result in visible indicators of control. It’s the modern manifestation of the age-old saying: children are to be seen, not heard. And it’s just as out of tune with how we learn as horse breaking is with how they learn.
Buck reminds us that when learning is about shared inquiry, it transforms both teacher and student. He reminds us that the process will surface what is already present, and help us make sense of what we see. And whether we’re a parent, teacher or trainer, he demonstrates that the art of the whisper comes in the search for, and discovery of, the delicate balance between reassuring structures and empowering freedoms, something Buck describes as the ‘soft feel.’
‘Most people think of a feel as when you touch someone,’ he tells us. “But a feel can have a thousand meanings. Sometimes a feel is a mental thing. Sometimes it’s a glance exchanged between horse and human from across the arena. But always it’s an invitation from the horse to come closer, and it’s a moment of perfect balance.
‘Your horse is a mirror to your own soul,’ he reminds us. ‘Sometimes you may not like what you see. But sometimes, you will.’” Read more here.
I like Sam’s point about “shared inquiry”—too often our efforts to instruct kids are more like instilling in them what we think they should know. His vision of gently leading, and following, the child—engaging in the “invisible, orderly dance” of learning—takes much more patience and sensitivity and self-discipline on the part of the adult. but it ends up being a much more satisfying experience for all involved.