What Walking My Dog Taught Me About Teaching

Every morning the time rolls around where I need to get myself out of bed and walk Becca. No matter what time it is, she is always ready to go outside. At even the slightest hint that we might be going for a walk, Becca is up and walking around, tail wagging and all.

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This is my precious baby girl, Becca. She is always happy and silly and loves to chase lizards whenever the opportunity strikes.

Most of the time these walks feel like a chore to me, but they bring Becca so much joy. This morning as we were walking, I couldn’t help but appreciate Becca’s happiness and it got me thinking. In a lot of ways my dog is like my students. There are things that bring her joy that I just don’t understand. And, like my students, she can’t explain her feelings to me (Well, my students can explain their feelings to me, but they are high schoolers so nine times out of ten they choose not to). If you pay attention both dogs and people do a good job of showing their feelings. There is so much to be learned through the actions of others. So, without further adieu, here are the lessons that my dog taught me about teaching.

>>Sometimes your students will need to slow down, and it is OK to give them this time.

  • Becca loves to stop and smell the grass. Every. Single. Blade. Of. Grass. I have no idea what she finds so interesting, but there will be multiple times during our daily walks that she will just dig in her paws and refuse to move until she has had her fill of sniffs. Initially, this would drive me nuts because I was thinking about all of the ways that stopping to smell the grass was affecting me. Mostly, it had to do with the fact that stopping to sniff would make the walk take longer and I had things to do, you know? I had to get to work. I had to do laundry. I had to catch my show. I was hot and sweaty and had just showered. The list goes on and on. The point is, sometimes things are not about what YOU have to do, they are about what is important for the other people (ehh…dogs) involved.
  • How does this apply to your classroom? I know, I know you have standards to cover and objectives to teach, but your students are not robots and just because a district is pushing content down their throats does not mean you have to. They need time to digest new information. Give them that time. Help your students to grow in their curiosity and interests. Trust me, it will be more enjoyable for all involved.

>>Distractions can be a welcomed break and point you towards your students interests. Don’t always just shrug them off. 

  • Becca loves squirrels and lizards. She gets so excited when she sees them. Sometimes she will spot a squirrel or lizard before I do, and don’t you know she is pulling like crazy to go catch it. These distractions typically take us off of our normal walking path, and honestly, taking a new path sometimes is extremely refreshing.
  • How does this apply to your classroom? Isn’t it like this with our students? They trudge along through the school days sometimes paying attention, sometimes not. And then, there is that one topic that sparks their interest and ignites a fire for learning within them. Look for that spark. It is going to be different for every student and you may not see it every day, but look for it nonetheless. You will find that spark as a glimmer in a students eye as you are working on an activity or project. Use that glimmer as motivation and know that your students appreciate all of your time and effort.

>> Listen to what your students have to say, but more importantly, listen to what they don’t say. 

  • Sometimes when we get close to the house Becca will pull towards the other side of the street. She is telling me that she isn’t ready for the fun to end; she wants to keep walking.
  • How does this apply to your classroom? Pay attention to your students body language, facial expressions, and actions. They can give you so much information about how a student is feeling. There have been countless times that I have noticed something was wrong just because of the expression on a students face as they entered the classroom. Every time I notice that something is up I take the time out to ask the student if they are alright. Usually they say they are fine. But sometimes, they will open up to me about what is bothering them. They feel safe. They feel validated. They feel important because someone noticed them. These feelings are so important to cultivate for our students. Learning just won’t take place without them. 

So, there you have it. Lessons from my dog that apply to the classroom. Who knew this silly, fun loving Labradoodle had so much wisdom to impart!

Happy Teaching!

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