There’s a new routine/obsession for my pack of terribles. It has become all consuming. As soon as the back door is opened, all 3 boys shove past the resident door person, hip checks the adjacent table, and fly down the steps.
This is where paths often diverge and the hunt begins. Percy barks orders (or fear, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt) and heads to the south side of the shed. Drake races toward the north and Haas alternates west and east. The hunt for the shed monster begins anew–every couple of hours, loudly, over and over.
Drake’s concentration is fierce and he carefully, yet frantically, digs under the shed. Here, Percy takes command/paces nervously and lets the entire neighborhood in on the play by play. Meanwhile, Haas keeps trying to shove his giant, fuzzy head into a previously dug hole roughly the size of his paw. Granted, the paw is massive, but his head is bigger. The only thing Haas retrieves is another pound of dirt that he magically transforms into a muddy hipster beard.
When Drake yelps and the hound howls come out, the big boss calls off the hunt. The pack gives Mom sad eyes and all 3 attempt to crowd into her lap. She doesn’t give in and take care of the shed monster for the boys. Mom is wise and knows it is probably a garden snake, a mother bunny just trying to care for her babies, or even a shared canine hallucination (these boys will eat anything, good idea or no, so maybe it’s doggy drugs). It definitely isn’t a scaly beast who will come through the walls and devour us in our sleep, no matter what these boys think.
Mom isn’t scared of the shed monster; but even still, she’s not checking out the situation. She’ll just snuggle big, brave, muddy puppies and keep watching Netflix.
Previously I have written about trying to learn how to show love as freely as my dogs do. This was central to my classroom strategy this year. Since the school year is officially over, now I get to reflect on how well it worked. There was definitely a change.
When I had my very first classroom 18 years ago, I accidentally slammed my door on the first day and scared the freshmen. When you combine that with my natural RBF (resting um…butthead…face), 30 kids were terrified. They soon realized was all bluff and gruff. However, my kids thought it was hilarious to tell incoming students how scary I was. For the first 14 years of teaching, I just went with the unfounded fear turned to continuing upper class prank. It worked well with my inclination to avoid sappiness.
Then it became time for me to go home and change some things in my life.
I had a new opportunity to start the year with love rather than fear. It was tougher than I expected. Before, I had very few discipline issues because by the time kids were no longer afraid, our procedures were established and I could form relationships. I also needed to break my ingrained habits.
I didn’t want to be the scary teacher. Instead of kids laughing at their long running joke (excepting those who thought I was legitimately terrifying and never moved past it), I wanted to be the kid of teacher my kids loved and remembered fondly.
The first two years in my current district, I just tried to be the kind of teacher, and person, I wanted to be. I made some improvements but they weren’t enough and I didn’t feel successful in any way. Then came Percy who would never have been a dog I picked out for myself.
Percy is the most loving dog I have ever met. I started using him as my model for some of my behavior. I try to show my kids every day how much I love them so the students don’t have to guess or hope their teacher cares. Obviously, I don’t show my affection in the same way Percy does. I have no desire to slobber on anyone or follow them around every moment of the day. I still need my space and quiet time.
I just started telling the students how I felt. I worried that teenagers would think it weird or that they were too old for getting read to and fed snacks. I gave it a go. Then I told them again.
I reminded my kids that I would love them no matter what their standardized test scores were. And in their very last class, I reminded each section that I loved them dearly and I would miss them.
The best part of actually verbalizing how I felt felt instead of just hoping they knew was their response. One group even responded immediately with a “love you” as they left. While I searched for the tissue box that seems to roam the classroom, I thought about how happy I was this year. I had no behavioral discipline referrals. I signed more yearbooks than all other years combined and I have a great start for my new memories book.
I know it isn’t just saying “I love you” aloud to my kids. I actually worked to improve our classroom environment and atmosphere in other ways, as well. Those three words were the scariest part and I will keep working to make my classroom not just a room of learning but also of love.
I don’t regret taking the risk of stating my feelings just like I don’t regret getting a giant, slobbering, blanket-carrying, bottomless pit of a dog who thinks he must be in constant physical contact. Percy and I encourage you to show the love yourself this week. We need more love in the world.
The terrors have 2 reasons to celebrate this week. First, it is the last week of school so there is a whole lot of snuggling and playing catch and tug in the boys’ future. The second, more immediately exciting reason to celebrate is that Haas is passed into level 3 of his training class.
We had no plans to try to test out of level 2 and hadn’t even attempted some of the requirements but my Haas was a big enough bum to pass! This was the hardest level for Percy because there was always so much interesting stuff going on and he wasn’t physically capable of leaving my side for 2 seconds. Haas, on the other hand, just wanted to lie down and didn’t care if I walked around him or did cartwheels across the floor. I’ll take it, though.
Haas is difficult to work with/train because he isn’t food driven. At home, I can get him to work with a little peanut butter or some commercial treats but not outside the house. We’ve tried all the dog treats, bacon, beef jerky, popcorn, string cheese, and hot dogs. They last about two bites. The only thing that works in the actual training class is Chex Mix. This works for me for a few reasons. One is that I would much rather smell Chex Mix breath in the car instead of dog breath. Another is that I can steal the rye chips. Of course, when I come across them, the other handlers probably think I am eating dog treats instead of my dog eating human treats. Oh, well. They already think I’m nuts for having a horse sized dog.
When owning pets, it’s very important to set and enforce certain ground rules. These are mandatory when owning dogs that are bigger than you. Being a gal of exceptional willpower, I like to make sure everyone in the house adheres to “the rules.”
Save your furniture and keep animals off!
definitely don’t them hang out on top of the couch
no dogs on the bed
No playing ball in the house.
No people food–especially snack foods
No bones–they stink!
Oh, who am I kidding? The rules don’t apply to me.
Sometimes, when I can’t sleep, I will reread some of my posts from the last year. Sometimes, it’s a bit…dull. Sometimes, I wonder how I still have three dogs who are all in good health and we still haven’t had sock removal surgery. Go Percy!
Last time I checked the diary archives, I noticed that this time last year I was counting down the days and being frustrated by Percy’s lack of training success. This year is a little different. I have avoided finding out how many days are left but I am still frustrated with dog training. This time it’s outwardly Haas being uncooperative but actually it’s me falling back on old habits. I’m letting my stress over end-of-school-year stuff get to me. I’m on top of the paperwork. I’m behind on preparing to let my kids go and on being consistent with dog training.
I figure I am learning by at least recognizing what the problem is. That’s a start, right? I know that when Drake’s turn comes around to go to obedience school, I won’t be starting in the spring. Ideally, I will get my rear in gear and have Haas finished up by the early fall. Then, I can start Drake when I am still busy but less likely to get overly emotional anytime something doesn’t go my way. This sounds like a plan! I can do this!
I could start my super enthusiastic return to the training regimen tonight and turn over a new leaf. The weather is beautiful, though. Maybe one more night of denial won’t hurt. Surely, I can still get everything in order tomorrow, right? My kids won’t move on for almost a month, I have several days before going to training again, and I don’t really need to come in out of the sun.
Tomorrow is a big day. My kids start taking their state mandated End of Course Exams: a standardized test for my non-standardized kids. I dislike them tremendously. They disrupt our learning, frustrate the kids, and bore me to tears. Did I mention there are two days just for my subject? Some of my students will take a total of 3 tests that pull them out of class for 5 days total.
Contemplating those tests makes me think about what teaching teenagers and training dogs have in common. Besides using treats to get desired behavior, they are both discouraging at times. For both, this fades as I learn the individual quirks, motivations, and what we need to do to form 14a bond with one another. Then, it clicks and the positives outweigh the hard parts. I’ve been thinking about this since Haas’s training on Saturday and then today as I was reminded that I only have 5 weeks left with my kids. I’m not counting down the days and I am grabbing extra tissues.
The first weeks of training Percy were disheartening. I watched other handlers moving effortlessly around the room with a loose leash and stopping with an attentive pup immediately sitting and gazing at the handler in adoration. Percy didn’t do that. Check out this old post for more detail. Now we are a walking (or rather “heeling” heh) testimonial to our training classes. Percy is wonderful both on leash and off. Haas has his own challenges and eventually we will get it and life will be fine.
My kids are at the Percy’s-current-level-of-training phase. They don’t need me anymore and now I just have to show them. The majority have shown so much growth and development in the their reading and writing. I don’t care if someone else deems their progress acceptable; it is acceptable to me. They didn’t all grow at the same rate or even in the same amount as each other, but they grew!
Here’s where dog training and teen teaching differ. I get to keep my dogs for life. I have to let my kids go in 5 weeks. They’ll move up to the next level and I will see them in the halls laughing, crying, engaging in periodic impolite language and they will pass by without a thought and move forward with their lives. I’ll miss them but I will have to focus on my new set of kids. I will love them, too, and will let them go when it is time. I’ll keep watching those who connect on social media after they graduate and celebrate the births, mourn their heartaches, and adore their pet photos. Maybe I do get to keep them for life, in a way.
My kids –if you found this, I still love you and I don’t care or remember what you go on your MAP, ACT, or EOC. I remember YOU.
P.S. Tomorrow is my birthday and I have to give a standardized test. This is just added to my extensive list of why I hate standardized tests.
I’m wrong a lot. The older I get, the easier it is to admit it. I thought I hated jalapeños. I don’t. I love them. I thought three dogs couldn’t be harder than two. I was wrong. I thought Haas would be easier to train than Percy and thus it would go faster. I was wrong.
Percy had boundless energy. He constantly wanted to run and play, chase toys, or leave a sit/stay to be attached to my leg. It didn’t matter what type of treats I used because Percy would wolf it all down.
Haas is pretty much the opposite. He is vaguely interested in playing. He’s not sure about getting up to practice heeling as we don’t go far enough for it to be worth his while. Haas won’t step up on anything and even without breakfast can’t be bothered with treats. So far, I have tried three types of store bought treats, popcorn, jerky, and hot dogs. None of these works as an incentive more than once. Next week, I am desperate enough to try cheese balls and peanut butter cookies. The only human food my boys get is limited to apples, carrots, and cheese. I would have thought any of these would have won Haas over on novelty alone. Nope.
The upside is I don’t feel my arm is going to be dislocated. That’s something, I suppose. Haas doesn’t pull, he doesn’t fight me, he doesn’t bark at other dogs. He also doesn’t obey. After 10 minutes of a 45 minute class, Haas heads for the door at every “free”.
This is a different type of stubborn and I will get it. I just need to come up with a different plan of attack. Haas may think he’s got this but I have been teaching teenagers for 18 years. If they haven’t chased me out of a classroom yet, Haas isn’t going to either. Now, where’s the Tom Petty I needed for Percy’s training? Or maybe I just need a new playlist.