I’ve mentioned before that I train with a dog group. The class is divided into classes from one to four, with dogs moving up a class when they are proficient and pass a test.
My dog has special needs and is extremely nervous around strangers, to the point she runs away from people she doesn’t know. She’s reached the point where she is comfortable training with the people in my class but there are still a lot of strangers at training in the other classes.
Jasmine has demonstrated mastery of all the skills required to move to the next class and this has been observed by several of the trainers. Unfortunately, the club rules state she has to take a practical test which is observed by a trainer from the club. Jasmine has what can only be described as a phobia of the lead trainer and so has panic attacks and runs away from him.
I’ve complained about the assessment method but the compromise put in place was only a minor change with the instructor stood a few feet further away. Consequently, Jasmine is destined to fail each and every test that she takes.
So why am I writing about it here? The feelings of frustration at being forced into an assessment method that doesn’t suit. The feelings of failure when you can jump through what seem like impossible hoops. The feeling of experiencing an examination system that sets you up to fail. These are the feelings that my students have every day and after my experiences today I have a little more empathy with them.
Fortunately, I’m in a position where I can walk away from the training club (that’s my intention), but my students aren’t so lucky. Spare a thought to your students with special needs and consider their needs and feelings at this time of year as they enter into a process from which they will come out emotionally battered and bruised, feeling like a failure.