This summer the Gilson’s decided to take the leap and brought home the most delightfully cute puppy. Miss Molly as we affectionately referred to her changed our lives. The other day as I was trying to record a video for #teachlikeyourself I was out playing with the dogs and took a few moments to reflect and as most of my reflections do school and teaching started to come up in the lessons that Molly has reminded me of. So here are a few lessons that my Lab reminded me of this summer.
1. First impressions are important, but they are not everything.
When we first brought Molly home she was a quiet, timid and delightful puppy. She followed around Stanley (Our German Shepard and her owner) and just wanted to cuddle. We were in love. At approximately 11pm that love was questioned when she would not stop barking and crying. Looking at the classroom we start our first days and 9.9/10 times we report having the “best class”, the “cutest kids” but by the end of that first week or first month both our first impressions on our students and the ones we have had of them have faded. Often those behaviours that lead to problems in class start to show up and, being completely honest, we stop pulling out the big gun lessons. After all, we have impressed with the first few days and we hooked those kids and so now we can take that step back. Just like Molly that first impression was great but the work comes long after the first few days (or hours)
2. Any attention might be good attention.
Molly likes to nip still, she likes to jump and hit you in uncomfortable places, she likes to bark in Stanley’s face until he bites her. She gets in trouble a lot. She will leave for a minute after a scolding but in mere minutes she is back nipping and jumping and barking. No amount of negative attention right now is curbing that behaviour, mostly because she doesn’t know better, she hasn’t been taught. In the classroom, this is a common issue. When we don’t take the time to work on the skills and behaviours that as adults we think are common sense our students will continue to do things we are not fans of because any attention is good attention. Beyond that, some students only know negative attention and so they see it as caring. Do you know your student’s stories? Before going home or to the staff room to complain about how tough they are, do you find out? I think when we take the time to look at the “why?” (Molly is a puppy, student X has a tough life out of school) we can work our way out of the negative attention seeking behaviour. At least I am hoping that is the case because I can only take a few more jumping Molly attacks.
3. The best examples took time to.
Stanley is the greatest dog in the world. I forget that he pulled me so hard that it put my back out once trying to get a deer. I forget the nights we were up with a water gun spraying him whenever he barked. I forget that he ate 3 lawnmower pull cords and dug holes all over the yard. I forget he chewed the doorframe off at our old place. Stanely is the best dog now so I forget what he was like then. Molly is “then” and it is unfair to hold her to my expectations of him. The degree that this applies to the classroom is ridiculous. How many times do we say at the start of the year “oh if only you were like last years kids…” or “my students last year…” we have these standards and compare end of one year to start of another and it is usually an unattainable standard that sets our new learners up for failure. It is something with Molly I need to remember and something on day one of this year I need to remember as well.
4. Avoid the poop
Playing in the yard with Molly is great, we throw the ball she runs around like a maniac and we do it all again. On occasion, I get lazy and let the poop issues (Two dogs, 1 very large and the other eats a lot) start to pile up…literally. If I just dealt with the dang poop when it happened it would not be such a problem. In the classroom, poop piles up to in the form of classroom management issues, lazy instructional practices (a reliance on TPT before ingenuity) and allowing programs (AR, of course, comes to mind but there are others) to replace teachers. All of these issues can be avoided if we are on our game and watching out for them. I hate stepping in poop and I would hate for my students to step in educational poop because then they are tracking it around for years to come. Let’s pick up the poop and toss it before it becomes a problem.
I thought this was a fun way to tie in the thoughts I have had as the year gets ready to begin. Molly really has inspired this post, I love her flaws and all. Mostly because well…look at this face.