I want my dog! I simply cannot wait to get my hands into the fur of my new guide dog. Completing a test walk on the first day of training with a dog whose name I don't know and who is someone my trainers are considering for me has awakened the longing to get "my dog." I want that dog right now more than a vanilla latte, a massage, an award, or even dark chocolate!
As I listened to the supervisor of my class describe what the procedure is to train a guide dog and how we will receive the dogs this week, I began contemplating the intensity of this longing for the new dog. What drives that desire? Many things. All that past experience teaches me about how important a guide dog can be in the successful navigation of this sighted world. The memory of times when a guide dog broke down social barriers, allowing the public to interact with me when they otherwise might have walked past me with discomfort. The confidence that I have skills to bring to the partnership in a way that will honor the dog's expectations and training so that we can be a powerful team.
Are my students ever eager for knowledge in the way that I am eager for this new partnership? If not, why? What do we do or don't we do in education to make learning a keen, riveting, consuming source of excitement?
1. I long for this dog because experience with three previous dogs has shown me the potential of this partnership. Educators must draw upon the experiences of students so that we can build upon those foundations. Good or bad, a student's experience with education cannot be ignored; a system must be created to allow and encourage that learning continuum.
2. Raffles, Prancer, and Elias (my three previous guide dogs) all helped me experience breakthroughs worthy of acknowledgement and celebration. Do we commit to celebrating breakthroughs enough in the classroom? When we get too bogged down by the heavy wait of standards, evaluations, and policy changes, joy can be squeezed out of our classrooms faster than a German shepherd can snatch a tennis ball out of the air! It must be a point of no compromise that joy must remain the cornerstone of the classroom. It must be the persistent light we never extinguish. We are embracing a pervasive motivation killer when we choose to let joy retreat from our practice.
3. I have confidence, not that I will get everything right with this new dog, but that I have the fundamentals as well as the ability to help us grow. We are going to be a sensational team: just watch! Teachers must approach their lessons with similar confidence, and we must build up and encourage that same (or even better) confidence in our students. This must come through scaffolding our lessons, providing meaningful encouragement, and establishing academic rigor, all supported with constructive feedback, second chances, and hope. That is the soil from which confidence will grow.
So, I still want my dog! Right now would be perfect actually! I want too to be a better teacher. I want the keen, riveting, consuming love I have for dogs to be the default attitude I see in my classroom toward learning. What can I do to make that happen? Maybe this new dog will show me the answer. Now if I could just have the dog!
Update: Now I have him! Dancing, dancing, dancing! My dog is ...