Wednesday, March 31, 2010

TAGteacher Spotlight - Linda Randall

We are proud to announce that Linda Randall DVM, ABVP is our newest Level 2 TAGteacher! Linda is a familiar and friendly face at Clicker Expos and TAGteach seminars and we are very impressed with her commitment to continued learning and to teaching others. We have also been impressed and grateful for her photography skills!  Linda is board certified in canine and feline medicine and surgery and owns Cloverleaf Animal Hospital in Westfield Center, OH, where she works with dogs, cats and exotic animals. She also owns The Agility Underground dog training facility. Linda uses clicker training in many of her classes and became acquainted with TAGteach at Clicker Expo in Providence, RI. Now she uses TAGteach in her agility classes and also in her veterinary hospital with her technicians and receptionists.

Linda has had a varied and interesting life experiences including riding her horse to school as a child from a small farm, competing in horse and dog sports, raising and training champion Flat Coated retrievers, majoring in English literature, teaching in a Quaker highschool, working in Nigeria where she experienced the turmoil of a military coup, veterinary school, private veterinary practice and community service. Currently Linda competes in agility with her border collie and specializes in working with junior handlers, especially children 8-12 years old.

We asked Linda to tell as a bit about how she is using TAGteach in her various endeavors and here is what she told us:
I am excited to be Level II TAGteach Certified. I use TAGteach at my veterinary hospital. There is a tagulator by one of the telephones. My initial idea for this tagulator was to use it  for myself. I wanted to slow down and truly listen to my clients rather than rushing to tell them what I wanted them to hear, then getting on with my day. When I relaxed my shoulder muscles as I listened, I would “pull a bead”. After 10 beads I would do something rewarding for myself. Soon this morphed into “pulling a bead” every time I overheard a staff member say something compassionate or service-oriented to a client when using this particular phone. Then anyone could “pull a bead” for anyone else for a client or pet-centered phone phrase. The tagulator became a team effort and we needed a second tagulator to mark the completion of the first tagulator so we could get pizza after 100 secondary beads! It worked, and is working, wonderfully.

I also teach medical skills with the TAGteach method. I have found it especially useful for the technicians that come through our practice that need to develop a level of comfort working with exotic animals.

In dog agility, I often use TAGteach to hone specific handling skills. This would include timing, footwork and hand/arm position. One of my favorites is “eye-to-eye”, which is our phrase for direct eye contact with the dog. Many times my students will come to me before a trial and ask for focus points for their runs.

I find that TAGteach has infiltrated my daily existence, because it has had such a positive effect on my relationship with my staff and my students. The sight of my tagger, or a tagulator, brings a smile to my face and I relax. I have conditioned them as reinforcers for a sense of well-being, without actually setting out to do that.

One of the Aha! moments that I remember most is the day that I realized how exhausted I was because I had not thought through my TAGteaching plan for one of my agility classes. I thought I could do it on the fly. Well, I could, but it wasn’t confident, it wasn’t smooth, and I had to really work at creating and maintaining appropriate Points of Success. That was the day that I knew that there was such depth to the TAGteach method, that people who thought : “Oh, I clicker train. I can TAGteach easily.” were mistaken. It takes dedication, research, and a thorough understanding of  the group or individual you are tagging to develop positive TAGpoints that move the learner forward. Yes, in its simplest form, many can do it, but, like most things, it takes a student of the process to become an artist of the method. I am truly happy to be on this journey.
Here is an excerpt of a video that Linda was kind enough to share with us that shows her teaching a veterinary technician how to hold a snake. Just one tag point is shown in the video to illustrate how TAGteach gives both teacher and learner a calm and focused approach. Focusing on one thing, setting the learner up for success by giving something that is easy to do at first and giving calm and clear instructions are the hallmarks of an excellent TAGteacher.

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