Lessons from My Dog

Despite it being just a few weeks into summer and the fact I am really trying to honour the necessity of some much needed time to recharge, there is still a whole lot of “education” going on around my house. Roo, my ten-month-old Australian Cattle Dog/Beagle mix puppy is learning every single day, and very much still in need of some teaching or training.

Roo is the quintessential puppy; high energy, playful, fun and inquisitive. She loves bones, balls, sticks, water, treats, things that move and walks. She has many great qualities. She is good on the leash, very sociable with dogs of all sizes and ages, affectionate, easy going and always happy. She is resilient and tough; already battling through two UTIs and an allergic reaction in her short life. She can also be difficult to manage when she gets amped up, likes to bark at our three cats and struggles to behave appropriately at times around food. She is still learning. Hence, I turn on “teacher mode”.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that educating the youth of today in schools can be equated to the learning and training of a puppy, but yet there are many parallels. Over the last number of weeks, I have been struck by just how many. In many ways, learning is learning, regardless of the audience.

Key Foundations of Learning

Setting routines, boundaries, and expectations is essential

  • Setting the stage to know what to expect and being consistent is key.

Learning often takes time

  • Learning is a marathon, not a sprint. It often takes time. Chunk expectations and goals. Be patient.

Stay positive

  • Celebrating successes, honouring strengths, reinforcing the positive and planning for next steps is what keeps learning moving forward.

It always comes down to relationships

  • Roo trusts me. We have a connection and a bond. This whole dynamic is much more complicated with the whole master and dominance piece with dogs, but ultimately it all comes down to relationships.

Learners have different needs

  • What works for one learner will not work for all. Every learner is different. Be a problem solver, differentiate and look for alternative means to reach the goal.

Remember the power of the network

  • There is nothing more powerful than talking with others, sharing experiences and getting ideas through connecting. When we are open to learning from each other we all benefit. We also need to rely on our “experts”. (Special thanks to Lisa Morin, Stacy from Leo & Co., Ashley Reid, Kerry Nemet and Doggy Dan)

All of these principles drive the work I am doing with my puppy this summer. They also are reflective and embedded in the work I have done with both children and adults over the last twenty plus years. Learning is learning.

Roo’s learning is a work in progress. That’s true for all of us. And as we continue to work on her training this summer, I learn alongside her. She also teaches me many things. She reminds me to greet each new day with enthusiasm, play more, enjoy the simple things, and love unconditionally. There is much we can learn from each other! Wish me luck as the adventures of Roo continue!


“Learn Moore”


#IMMOOC Week 4 Blog Prompt

Who is an educator that has had a tremendous impact on you in your career that you met through social media or have dug into their stuff from afar? Why did they have an impact?

After reading this week’s #IMMOOC blog prompt, I could have written about many educators from afar that influence my work. In fact, my last week’s blog post focused on exactly that; the power of the NETWORK. However, in thinking about someone whose work truly resonates with me and whose stories come back up for me over and over again, it has to be Shelley Moore. I wrote this blog post after reading her book, One Without the Other: Stories of Unity Through Diversity and Inclusion, and say the following;

“ This book is a must-read for all educators. It explores how inclusive education can increase the learning and life chances of ALL students. After reading the book and looking further into some of Shelley’s work online, one thing that becomes quickly apparent is her strong experience base and her true passion for children and education. She is a master storyteller who appears to leave much of her heart and soul in all that she does. She has most certainly found her meraki, and through her work, shares her voice to inspire that in others.

In the book, Shelley Moore suggests a definition of inclusion in which there is no “other”. Instead, she states, ‘ We are diverse, all of us. We all have strengths, we all have stretches and we all need to get better at something. The difference in teaching to diversity, however, is that we don’t start with our deficits, we start with our strengths’.

Imagine the possibilities if we organized our students by strengths instead of most schools’ traditional model of deficits. Imagine the possibilities if we supported our students in their quest to find their passions and fuel their interests. Imagine if schools were places that relentlessly sparked the inspiring artists, scientists, engineers, musicians, poets, designers, inventors and makers in our midst with regular opportunities for creation and exploration.”

Shelley’s stories stay with you. Her Tweets and blog posts often inspire and ring true.  I can’t tell you how many times I have thought about the “sweeper van”, or the boy Under the Table (her Langley TEDTalks)and considered the importance of finding the “dictionary” or common ground that we need so that the world of our students and ourselves can come together. If you haven’t seen her video, Transforming Inclusive Education, check it out as her bowling analogy along with her insight into the importance of “changing our aim” is extremely powerful. Just this past week Shelley Tweeted out a powerful article from the New York Times, entitled You are Special! Now Stop Being Different that is so related to her own message and really makes you stop and think about the experiences of students.

Shelley’s work in the area of inclusive education and messages around presuming competence in people, focusing on a strengths-based model of education, and believing that all people can learn are such important ones and so parallel my own beliefs as an educator. On top of that, her sincerity and the authentic, thoughtful and genuine way she shares her thinking and learning make her a strong, impactful and important voice in education today!


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