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I'm a huge dog lover. In fact, if I wasn't a teacher, I think I'd have a career that involved my four-legged friends.
Luckily, I've been able to combine teaching and my love for dogs in a unique way. My room overlooks a grassy courtyard where people walk their dogs every day, and I've been able to make a few furry friends over the years.
It started one day at lunch, when I saw a beautiful golden retriever running around the courtyard with her owner. I couldn't resist: I opened the window and let out my best dog whistle. Libby came loping over, and I rewarded her with a piece of my sandwich.
Further reading: The Effect of Teacher Optimism on Student Performance
The next day around the same time, I heard scratching at the window and looked up to see a gorgeous golden retriever face. It was Libby!
After that, Libby came to my window and either barked or scratched until I saw her almost every day.
My students fell in love with Libby. Her visits provided a nice time-out from our rigorous curriculum. "Miss, Libby's here!" my students exclaimed when they saw her at the window. They knew that only I could give Libby treats, and they were happy to take photos for Snapchat and Instagram.
Animals bring people together, and my classroom was no exception. The dogs helped to break the ice with my students, and they humanized their teacher. Dog visits, I discovered, were a great way to build relationships with teenagers.
One winter, we had 47 inches of snow, and I knew it would be a long time before spring. My students and I were sad that we wouldn't be able to see our furry friends, and the dreary days lacked a bit of sparkle.
Then one morning my students started screaming with excitement. I looked up to see Libby standing on a huge pile of snow outside my window. She was not deterred by the mountain of white stuff.
One time, I thought I saw Libby outside. I whistled, and a beautiful golden scampered over—but it wasn't Libby.
Who was this Libby impostor? It was Woody, and we became fast friends. Woody has the sweetest disposition, and he just sits and stares at my window until I notice him.
The word got out around the fire hydrant about the teacher with the treats, and soon Gruff, a high-energy lab mix, joined the group. Gruff's owner was an alumna of our school who frequently worked as a substitute in one of our district middle schools. Then Argo came by with his father, also a former student.
Boo Radley, a deaf dalmatian-hound whose mother is an English teacher in another district, introduced himself after school when I was teaching credit recovery. He has the cutest face you'll ever see.
And the visitors kept coming with Jax, a rescue pitbull, and Madison, a lab in snow boots, who all stopped by my window.
I feared the administration might not look too kindly on my dog visits. But they found out about it one morning when Libby jumped up to the window while I was conducting a professional development workshop in my room.
I continued speaking, casually walking over to the box of treats and tossing a few to Libby. To my relief, I saw my principal smile. As time went on, my vice principal and director also came to love my canine friends as much as I did.
Sure, I have to send all the dog owners a group email on the days of state testing. And if I'm absent, I hope I get Fran, a retired teacher and fellow dog lover, as my substitute because she takes over handing out the treats. But the pups are always welcome, and they bring joy to our school day.
Further reading: Creating an Engaged and Positive Classroom Culture
My students and I feel fortunate to have so many mascots for our classroom. The dog visits brighten our day, create an enjoyable atmosphere, and give us all something to look forward to. Dogs are a shared interest in my classroom, and they never fail to bring a smile to all our faces.