On Friday 16th February 2018, we entered a new lunar year: Year of the Dog. I am reminded of an old UK advertising campaign. Who remembers this from O2?
“I used to be a cat…”
Just over a year ago, I adopted an adorable little fluff ball and became a dog owner. My tiny bear cub (‘Teddy’) has since grown into a huge monster. I’ve totally fallen in love with him. During this time, I have learnt a lot about dogs and I totally understand why so many others are also besotted with them. Dogs deserve our love because they are wonderful, good-natured animals. As O2 suggested, we should all be a little more like them.
The good news is, as teachers, we are already in a very Dog profession. I researched the typical characteristics of people born in these lunar years and many of the sites actually list teaching as an ideal profession for Dogs.
“Due to their loyal personality, Dogs tend to choose a career based on the principle of serving others. Dogs are seen as valuable employees as they put their heart and soul into their tasks.”
Whatever your zodiac animal, there are ways that we can all #BeMoreDog:
Greet with visible happiness
Every day since I adopted Teddy, I have been greeted the same way every time I return home (even if I just popped to the shop). He hears the keys, spots me through the window, wags his tail rapidly, runs to the door, jumps up and attempts to licks my face (sometimes successfully). Dogs are so obviously and visibly happy to see us! Their joy is wonderfully infectious! Let’s show our students, all of them, how happy we are to see them. Let’s start each day with a personal greeting, a smile and a high five. It’s these little things that build relationships and classroom culture.
Unlike other pets, dogs are thinkers. You can see it in their eyes. They reflect. This is particularly evident when they have done something wrong. Whether he’s chewed a shoe, eaten the cat food or broken a photo frame, Teddy apologetically sticks his head underneath/inside the nearest furniture. He knows that he has done wrong. Hilarious! I didn’t know this about dogs! Of course, we shouldn’t just reflect when we have made mistakes. Reflection should be an embedded part of our everyday practice as teachers. Reflection makes us grow and become better educators.
Build and maintain strong relationships
Dogs crave strong relationships. They truly are man’s best friend. As teachers, our success similarly depends on strong bonds with students. Like dogs, our purpose is to serve but we’re unable to do so if the relationships aren’t right. We must make a conscious effort to build and maintain positive relationships through our daily actions and interactions. In her TED Talk, Rita Pierson stated it simply:
“Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.”
Before I adopted Teddy, he was fostered by a local lady who lives nearby. Over a year later, he still gets excited every time he sees her and still pulls on the lead when we walk close to her house. Even temporary owners are not forgotten. Their kindness is rewarded with lifelong loyalty. I’ve always felt like this towards former students. They don’t stop being my kids just because they have left my class. Let’s show all of our former, current and future students the same loyalty and continue to serve them.
Find your pack
We tend to see the same dogs every time we walk and Teddy loves nothing more than to be let off the lead to play with them. We, as owners, schedule our walks to make sure that the dogs can play together (sad, I know) because nothing makes them happier. Teddy has a close group of friends that energise him. They bring him to life! As educators, we can also build a pack. Your pack can be made up of school colleagues and/or PLN connections. Once you find your pack, you’ll constantly be energised and inspired.
Even as a playful puppy, Teddy has always been good at resting. He loves to exercise and play, but he balances it with unapologetic laziness. Teachers are notoriously bad at switching off, but it’s vital that we do. We need time for our hobbies, downtime, social activities and sleep. My #OneWord2018 is balance. I’m working on it!
This final point was inspired by Tara Martin’s recent post. Dogs love unconditionally, without any strings attached, and we must show the same unconditional love to our students. Tara has written about this much better than I could, so I encourage you to take a look at her original post. Tara has also made the connection to dogs, with reference to her sadly-missed Piper.
As we celebrate the Year of the Dog in China, Asia and beyond, let’s appreciate dogs for what they are and strive to mimic their best attributes. Beyond the new year celebrations and even beyond this year, we can all #BeMoreDog!
“What a beautiful world it would be if people had hearts like dogs.”
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