I recently acquired a puppy in my household much to my husbands dismay. As I was laying in bed this morning at 5:15 AM thinking I need to get up soon and let the little one out to relieve himself, I started calculating the similarities between my puppy training and my students in my classroom this year. I was amazed at how alike the two are.
Puppies and students need routines they can count on. They need the constant patterns that they recognize and understand and can depend on. Once they know those routines, they can relax and be themselves.
Expectations and Consequences
As with all of us, life has consequences when we don't participate the way we are suppose to. My puppy knows already that when he doesn't follow the household expectations there will be consequences. We are encouraging him not to chew, how to walk on a leash, and play appropriately. When that doesn't happen he knows there will be consequences. Students are very similar, they need to know you have expectations for behavior, work, and actions. When they are not successful in meeting them share your thoughts with them in a positive way, but let them know there are consequences.
Students and puppies need lots of praise. They need to know that when they do something right you think they are special. Hand it out freely, give them a pat on the back, pull them to the side and let them know you noticed what they did or accomplished. In the end, you'll be rewarded with a big smile or a wag of the tail. You'll see them relax, take more risks, and accomplish more.
Structure and Security
Both students and puppies need structure and security. They need to know they are safe, and that they can count on the structure you'll give them in their environment. Provide an environment where they feel they can make mistakes and learn from them. Give them the structure to learn and grow, where they can slowly expand their horizons. This morning my puppy bravely explored out large yard while the coyotes howled in the background. He occasionally ran back to my feet, but continued his quest because he felt safe. Your students will slowly take on more responsibility if you let them know they are safe and secure in your classroom.
Opportunities for both students and puppies should be abundant where they can learn and explore their world. Learning opportunities should be laced with questions and thinking, and most of all opportunities for wonder and creativity, curiosity and exploration. It is in this world where both puppies and students will grow, learn to think on their own, and become adults who will continue the cycle of education.