All the feels

I am amazed at how much love can live inside my heart. It almost feels like rainbows and glitter are going to ooze out of my ears with ponies and baby seals singing in the background. It’s early enough in the year that my students are still angel babies and since we focused today on how valuable we are as individuals in addition to getting to celebrate my grandfather’s 81st birthday with him, I am almost grossing myself out with happiness and…well…love.  It makes me never want to end my sentences.

Even having to outwit the boys to give them monthly meds isn’t getting me down. Instead, it was almost funny to see who took his pill and who had to be fooled with a peanut butter and banana sandwich. The answer: Drake was a good boy about his pill, Percy came in second with only needing 1/4 of a sandwich, and Haas was tricky and needed a full half sandwich, in case anyone is keeping score.

I am giving much of the credit for my sappiness happiness goes to these boys. Dogs can be so good for our hearts and minds. Even if I am sometimes overcome with the amount of emotion I generate, it never seems as much as what our dogs feel toward us. How do they keep loving us even when we are grumpy or sad or too lazy to throw the ball one more time? How can I live up to what my dogs believe me to be? I really don’t think I can, but I will sure try.

So, today, on a Monday, I am setting a goal to be like my dogs when it comes to my kids, both take-home kids and student-kids. I am going to love them even when they are grumpy and stinky and overwhelmed with life. I am going to remember that they are valuable even when they aren’t feeling it and their actions make life tough. They won’t always remember, but like my boys think I am awesome no matter what, I will remember they are awesome — even if I have to reread today’s post to remind myself.  I know I can never live up to my dogs’ ability to love and accept but I am sure going to try.

Ugh, okay. I’m grossing myself out with this already so I’m going to cut this short and go snuggle a dog or three. If any of my students found this, I love you, kid, and you’re my favourite.  (So are you, other kid, just don’t tell the others)

41b3ee98-6ead-4c81-a8f4-e587a30bf4bd

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Today I started my first full week back with kids and the neediness (oh the neediness!) is going to drive me bonkers. The students are great. I have a wonderful group of students this year. I even get Oldest Child in class. It’s the boys who are worse than static cling in January.

Since I am not at their bark and call all day, I can’t seem to leave the dogs’ sight when I am home. If it isn’t Percy gnawing on a blanket while staring mournfully at me, it’s Haas hugs and snuggles on the couch. Drake tries for cuddle time with Mom but Haas just sits on Drake who then must vacate if he wants to breathe.

Mom says she has to work so I can eat but I’m not stupid. Food comes in boxes right to our door. She’s just mean.

As soon as I walk in the door, it sounds like a bison stampede. They are so wound up, I fear for my furniture. Even with repeated “No!”s and “Off!”s at full teacher volume, there’s still a better than average chance to see a dog soar through the air after launching himself from the back of the sofa.

If it isn’t furniture, then it’s a broken record of “Don’t chew on your brother!” Percy is actually the good boy lately with Drake taking over as King of Obnoxiousness. Haas currently has Drake pinned with Drake’s head firmly between Haas’s jaws. I guess he is tired of Drake’s crazy like the rest of us. It took both Percy and Haas working together to get that monster subdued. On the bright side, I am proud of them working together.

It’s all about optimism, today. My students are going to continue being wonderful, the boys are going to calm down within the next six months, and Percy will finally test into his next training level. While we are at it, Drake will keep making sure Haas gets his exercise and Haas will stop breaking into the kitchen to scare the cat. It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen. If I repeat it enough, it’ll be true, right? Even if it doesn’t, I have an amazing team of co-workers who will keep me sane when either kids or canines go crazy. Let’s get this year started!

Attitude is Everything

When I tell people I teach high school students, many people tell me they are sorry or give some unnecessary praise for dealing with teenagers. It seems that attitude is the main complaint for those people. It’s true that teenagers can have some overly negative attitudes but I often think it is the expectation of negativity that makes it more noticeable or maybe worse. Teenagers can actually be quite wonderful and full of hope and love and laziness and inspiration and punkishness. I have often written that I like my dogs because they remind me of my kids. It’s easier to train the dogs, though. When they want to refuse or be hateful, I can’t understand what the dogs are saying.

I know that when I am having a particularly rough day with students, I get better results if I let my kids know that I lack patience and am not doing well. I try my absolute best to have as few of those days as possible but I am only human, just like the kids. They can hear and understand that it isn’t that particular class’s fault that I have used up all of my patience and I hope they see that I struggle sometimes, just like they do. I want them to see that even when I struggle, I have to push through.

When I am working with training the boys, though, I can’t make them understand that I am frustrated or impatient and it probably isn’t all them. I know better than to try to work with them when they have broken into the kitchen and eaten half a package of sweet rolls or ripped another blanket to shreds and spread it all over the back yard. It’s the little bits of impatience that I can’t explain to them and have to remind myself that this isn’t the time to work on our homework. Our trainer regularly reminds the class that we have to be in the right frame of mind to be effective when working with our dogs.  I get so caught up in “I have to do this right now” that I sometimes cause us to go backwards.

Today was good though. I set a time to work with Percy and did something relaxing for about 15 minutes before. It took a minute for us to work together but instead of getting frustrated, I was able to laugh when Percy started his “heel” position in the wrong spot. Normally when that happens, I guide him in a teardrop shape to the right spot. I cocked my head to the side (a weird habit I have before I correct him) and just as I was about to correct him, he maneuvered himself in that same teardrop pattern with a little extra hop at the end so he actually jumped into place. I don’t know if I should fix that or not, but it made me laugh and remember that training can be fun when I let it. I’ll ask the trainer Saturday about his weirdness but the rest of the homework went beautifully. He still had his challenges but that’s okay. There were more successes than challenges so I am calling it a day.

Since I wasn’t annoyed or impatient, I added a little time to work on training Drake. It lets me see how far Percy has come because I have forgotten what to do in order to get Drake started. He doesn’t know those basics that Percy does. It doesn’t matter though. Drake always has a good attitude. I thought doggie grins weren’t a thing until I met Drake. I have never seen a dog look so happy. The only time he doesn’t look happy is when Haas gets tired of Drake’s nonsense and sits on him.

img_2840
Can we train now, mom? I am so happy! Are you happy?

Drake picks things up much faster than Percy does. Maybe he isn’t as hard headed as Percy. Maybe it’s Drake’s better attitude than both Percy and I have on most days that makes the difference. He can be my inspiration as I try to get half a million things done this week.

I would love to be able to bring my happy boy to see my teenagers in the fall and especially when attitudes all around get a bit rough in October and April. You can’t be unhappy when you look at that grin and I don’t know how anyone ever let Drake go. I am happy to have been lucky enough to snap him up.

We studied all week for this test! (Ok, maybe not as much as we should have)

I heard something from another teacher that made me stop and think. Other Teacher said they thought that a student was afraid to pass, afraid to succeed. Teachers actually see a few of those students every year. Most students won’t admit it. The countdown–anticipated by some, dreaded by others–continues. There are 4 1/2 days left with the kids. Six days remain until my boys get Mom almost to themselves. (Those pesky kids and Dad try to claim her but the fuzz faces will tolerate that.)

So–here’s my question. Am I afraid to succeed with Percy in his training? Is it my worry about the next level and working on off-leash obedience holding us back? Am I the kid who deliberately fails because they don’t know that the next class will actually be okay? Insert dramatic sigh and the back of my hand to my forehead.

I am pretty sure Percy won’t ever be my therapy dog. Maybe I am trying to subconsciously sabotage the obedience training so I have that to blame. I know that I will love him no matter what. He is my sweetheart. Why am I putting this on us? Percy was so close to passing his test for this level of training but broke on the last part. Maybe he will pass soon. Looks like we are headed to summer school.

img_2679
I failed again? Bummer.

Once Percy graduates, or six months pass from the start of training, I will move on to training my other boys. Haas will probably only need a few private lessons but Drake may go all the way through.  I think he is a little insecure so the extra attention will be good for him.

In general, I believe my boys, like my students, mean well. It’s so easy to believe the worst of teenagers, both human and canine, especially when they won’t listen and eat things they aren’t supposed to (you get to guess which does what). Here’s how I know they are both pretty awesome. Last week was teacher appreciation week. I had some extra blank cards that I offered to some of my classes with time on their hands. It was completely optional, but I told them they could write to one of their teachers to tell them something nice. I would be willing to deliver the cards. I figured that two or three kids would write to a teacher or so but not only did I have over half of the kids take me up on it, most of them asked to write to multiple people, including people who just might have needed their day brightened. It was worth losing my planning time to deliver those many cards. And this morning, when I had the not-so-nice-feels, Percy shared a blanket and Drake has been extra attentive.

We’re going to succeed and it may take a while. We all learn at different rates and in different ways, even Percy and me. We’ll move on like the human students and conquer our fears. If we can’t make others feel better, then at least we can keep moving forward.

If you are one of my old kids, I still believe in you so don’t be scared of the future and I won’t be either. I can’t speak for Percy, though. In the future, he may have to face his worst fear, a carrot and/or blanket shortage.

The end is near.

Percy and I had a rough week. I am certainly ready to start a new week and if he cared about time passing, I am sure Percy would be happy it is Monday and we are getting back to normal. Since this is Percy’s first spring with us, he doesn’t know the craziness/crabbiness of the end of the school year.

There are 10 days of school left and I am tired. No, not tired…exhausted, drained, frazzled, and bone-weary. It isn’t just that I am not sleeping enough (but that doesn’t help), it’s tired of fighting cell phones, missing work, and teenage hormones. I love all 127 of my kids BUT they are making my hair gray and I feel an eye twitch a-comin’. My boys don’t understand why I am perpetually annoyed and they have their own rough times.

On Thursday of last week, poor Percy experienced some gastric distress. This necessitated a bath, a kennel clean-up, and the permanent loss of his bedding. I was annoyed but not at my boy. He had to be feeling pretty rough to make a mess in his bed. I’m not sure why he thought rolling around in it would make it better. Percy didn’t get much comfort because of clean-up and clean-up of clean-up. (My tub looks awesome now, so there is that)

Baby Percy
Just over one year ago, my big baby was a little baby.

On Friday, I had to leave for 3 days and it is the longest we have been separated since Percy came to live with us. I am guessing it was harder on me than it was on Percy but I am pretty sure he missed me. My handsome boy stuck to my side for most of the evening I returned and shared his blanket scrap for 5 whole minutes! That’s a big step for the big baby.

Percy says hi
I will share my blanket if you won’t leave again.

I know in a few short weeks our training will get back on track, I will no longer look like Haas smacked me in the eyes, and there will be many leisurely walks and jogs in my canine companions’ future.

I can make it. Just a few more days and a few thousand reminders to turn in missing work. I will think paws-itively and have extra dog cuddles. I have made it through the last 16 years so #17 won’t be a loss. I promise to stop whining (about this school year) soon.

Our pack wishes yours a beautiful week and lots of carrots and happiness!

Maybe I should learn to meditate.

Every job has benefits and drawbacks. April, for teachers, is one of those drawback times. The kids are done (mentally) and getting them through testing season requires super hero stamina. Add in the sudden realization that we have a large, year-long, project due and if kids don’t start turning in work they will get to spend not just 47 minutes each day with me but allllll day long for 2-4 weeks of summer school and people start to get irritable.

In my infinite wisdom/stupidity, I do the year-long project with my kids. This year, the project revolves around Percy. I have the rough draft of the paper done but I need to finish the project presentation. My original plan had been to have Percy all trained and ready to bring to school. That ain’t happenin’ so now I get to figure out how to make a video.

Percy has improved tremendously but he is still a wild man. He’s handsome, loving, and maybe 1/4 tamed. He also tends to be a bad influence on the other two. That happy face, according to online articles, should be lowering my blood pressure and making my stress vanish. I think the jury is still out on that one.  The study and article authors probably don’t have giant dogs who tore up a window screen, ate a crepe myrtle bush, uses a log for fetch, or left a paw print like this on a front door when someone knocked.

img_2715
Did you know you can bulk buy magic erasers?
img_2717
One of Haas’s favorite outside toys
img_2718
Haas knocked on the back door and we didn’t get there fast enough.

Actually… the list of current things that drive me nuts about my trio of terror was a bit hard to come up with. Yes, prying a paint pen out of the shark-pig’s mouth can cause a jolt of fear (poison!) and going after the suspicious item you caught from the corner of your eye disappearing into Haas’s mouth is disgusting, the sweet moments outweigh the infuriating. I tell myself that it’s like exercise to emotionally swing back and forth in this manner.

Last night, it was about 10 minutes until bed time and my boys put themselves to bed. I could handle starting bedtime early, so I began the nightly routine.

First to bed, Haas gets a scratch on the head every night and praise for going into his crate. He was sitting quietly in the back corner and when I reached in, somehow I fell over, landed on my right knee and skidded to the back wall. There may have been some loud and not quite polite words.

As Haas tilted his head in concern or confusion about why mom was taking up half of his room, I heard the other two bolt from their crates and try to crowd into the still open kennel door.

Fortunately for me, Drake’s wiggly rear kept both him and Percy from being able to enter what they must have thought was one of Haas’s famous house parties. I was stuck since I couldn’t back out of the crate with Percy and Drake in the way. I ordered them “out” and Haas gave a doggy shrug and tried to do what I said. This meant he would have to walk on me to do what he thought he had been told. (The other two seemed to think I was just joshing them.)

After much confusion about who was to “stay” and who was to “go,” my skinned knee and I finally got everyone to bed and situated only to find that Youngest Child (the band-aid addict) had left me with only teeny bandages or some cut-off-a-digit-sized gauze.

Here is where I got some perspective. These three are friendly boys and are only doing what comes naturally. They get tired and fussy with each other just like my students do with each other and their teachers at this time of year. None of us want to do what we are supposed to do, but at the literal end of the day, some of my last thoughts are about my boys, my children, and my kids. I couldn’t do what I do if I didn’t love them, terrible or not.  Here’s to the next six weeks of the blood pressure roller coaster.

Breathe. Be kind. Repeat.

Teenagers are frustrating, whether canine or human. Neither want to listen and both require more patience than I have today.

img_2573
Here is Drake, ready for a nap. It is hard to remember they are still technically puppies until I see this face.

The lack of patience is my own failing. I knew what I was getting into both with the profession as well as the dogs. Neither group is “bad” and both act according to their natures. Not being naturally patient, or kind, I have to struggle sometimes with my nature to be who I need to be for both groups.

Weighing on my mind today is a piece of advice one of my favorite high school teachers gave me when I was student teaching. She told me that it was better to be kind than to be right. I really (like obnoxiously so) like to be right. I need to be kind.

My frequently misbehaving furry friends need kindness. They need me to forgive them them for trying to eat the half filled out scoring guide I was using to grade an essay. They need me to gently repeat, over and over and over, the lesson that humans don’t play by biting and nipping. They need kindness in redirecting their long-contained energy away from rowdy play on the couch. It is a kindness to teach them boundaries and proper behaviors and to do this in the most compassionate way possible. They also need me to remember that they are puppies, even if they are in big bodies.

img_2546
They know they aren’t supposed to play on the couch. It is strictly for napping and nice boy time. Here, Percy is determined to get Haas in trouble.

Several years ago, I started looking at other teachers in a different way. Before, I watched for teaching techniques, content delivery methods, and behavior management “best practices”. Those things are certainly important, but maybe that wasn’t where I should have focused. I thought that there must be a “right” way to do everything in the classroom and that this would be best for my kids. Then, I started  looking at the teachers the kids loved and were willing to work for. Some kids will learn, behave, and succeed no matter what or who is teaching. Some need structure and routine and for the teacher and classroom to be predictable. Some need variety and constant stimulation. They need me to remember that they are still kids, even if they are in grown-up sized bodies. All of them need kindness.

I decided, then, that if someone were to describe me, the words I would want them to use (and didn’t) was that their teacher was kind, calm, and capable. I want my kids to feel peace and safety. I know that life isn’t peaceful, safe, or often kind. But. (Isn’t there always a but?) I can be kind, as much as possible.

I’m not there, yet. It is likely that I will never get there, but I will keep trying. I still get frustrated when kids argue or refuse to use time and resources given to them. I get loud when a 90 pound dog uses me as a trampoline or smacks me upside the head while trying to play. Then, I have to remind myself to be kind.

Today the phrase is written in large, clear lettering on an index card on my desk. (I am struggling to be kind and not insistent on “right”)

So, in the interest of accountability, today, tonight, and tomorrow, I will be kind in the following ways.

I will be kind to my students by remembering that Caesar can be hard and giving them some down time, even if it is just a few minutes.

I will be kind to my boys by taking one for a walk and giving the other two a special treat. They all get extra play time.

I will be kind to my department and bring muffins for breakfast tomorrow.

I will be kind to myself and remember that although I wasn’t always who I wanted to be today, no one is perfect and I can try again tomorrow to be calm, capable, and kind.