Monday, July 16, 2012

Dog training: the newest techniques in classroom management!

This week the K9 Psychology Center of Nashville came to visit me and Brooklyn and help me "train her." What always makes me giggle is that they call it "dog training", when it really should be called "human training."  An hour later I was exhausted and Brooklyn was fast asleep, we had worked hard. Of course they came in told me I had been doing it all wrong, but not to worry they would work with us. It would be like half way through the year your principal coming in and going "oopps I know you thought this was a third grade class, but actually they are fourth."

When the trainers (yes they had to send two for my little girl) finally left, I was struck by the fact that she doesn't actually listen to me. Seriously, she doesn't. I am like the nagging mom preaching to the eye rolling teenager. I was also struck by the idea that I could perhaps incorporate these techniques into my own classroom management style.

Last year I was in a class with a student that just wouldn't sit down and listen, the student was up and about and being a pain to me and the class. I remember getting so frustrated I just looked at the student and said "sit" as though I was talking to Brooklyn. I was shocked that it came out of my mouth, but more shocked because the student just sat down and that was the end of it. I laughed about it at the time, but after this training I thought, could this be my new classroom management room style?

Ok, stop laughing and let me share a few examples from the K9 tips that I really think I want to incorporate into my teaching style.

1) Be a firm leader. Dogs live in packs, when a new dog enters the pack they look to follow the dominant leader and if there is no leader they assume the role. Unfortunately this was true in my own household. Brooklyn thought she was the leader and needed to be "on call" all the time. Once she realized that the male trainer was more assertive and dominant than her she was at his beck and call, but also so much more relaxed. Students look to the adults to demonstrate leadership skills and we have to step up the the plate, which leads me to number 2.

2) Be an assertive leader. One trainer told me that even though I was saying commands, Brooklyn probably didn't think I was serious just from the way I held the leash and my tone of voice. It's true to be a good leader or even a good speaker, your whole body comes into play. They way you present yourself, your tone of voice, your body language, your pitch- they all either say "walk all over me" or "I am in charge!" If I am saying "walk all over me" at home, I wonder what I saying in the classroom? *Note: This is not yelling- but it's a strong assertive tone. It's actually harder for me than I thought.

3) Say things once. The trainer asked me to demonstrate getting Brooklyn ready for a walk and it went a bit like this:
Me: "Brooklyn come here."
Brooklyn: wanders around the room
Me: "Come here."
Brooklyn: looks, but continues to walk around
Me: "Come here!"
Brooklyn: takes her time wandering over.
Me: "Sit please."
Brooklyn: Stares
Me: "Sit"
Brooklyn: looks around the room at the other trainers as if to say "Is she serious?"
Me:  "SIT Down!"
Brooklyn: at a snails place moves her butt, but just so it hovers above the floor.

The trainer was quick to point out that I was saying things over and over again, therefore "sit" had become a request not a command.  "If you say things more than once, she get's to choose when she wants to follow it. Say it once," they advised. In the following days I noticed I really do say things a lot! Like a record skipping "sit, sit, sit, sit." The same goes for the classroom I think. I can honestly remember last year telling a class about a hundred times to "keep your voices at a whisper please." So this year I want to tell them once, and mean it! If they don't follow then I am going to stop and wait it out just like I have to do with Brooklyn.

This reminded me of my favorite show HIMYM. When Ted can't get his class quiet his mimics a car alarm until they all stop talking.  I LOVE it, but I couldn't find the video of it anywhere (seriously You Tube!)  It's actually HIMYM Season 6 Episode 7 "Canning Randy," so enjoy the rest of your summer and go rent the DVD's now! Until then here is a video to you decide:

What kind of a teacher will you be next year?

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