5 things we can learn from our four-legged friends...

My wife and I have been married for a little under three years, and about a year ago we decided that we wanted
to grow our family. As we discussed the most typical way of growing a
family (a baby), we came to the conclusion that we should start small
before taking the big leap. Last summer we purchased an 8 pound, runt
of the litter, slightly discolored, adorable, and loving yellow lab
puppy. Maddy, has been a welcome addition to our family. I would be
lying if I said all of our experiences with Maddy have been great,
because we have definitely had our fair share of rough patches and
disagreements. However, overall I would say that Maddy has become an
integral part of our family, and we would be lost without her. This
brings me to the point of this post...as educators we can learn so much
from our four-legged friends, and as guilty as I am of taking Maddy for
granted, she has proven to be a valuable tool as I look to grow both
personally and professionally.

1 - We must always be patient...

Maddy has tested my patience on several occasions, and because of this I
think I have gained a better appreciation for being patient with both
students and staff members with whom I work. Despite it being so easy
to get frustrated, disappointed, annoyed, and aggravated, remaining calm
and patient will almost always prevail. Some of the most respected and
accomplished people I know are always able to remain composed and
calm. Maddy and I have made it through numerous frustrating and
aggravating situations because either she or I have remained calm and
patient toward the other...

2 - We should expect the unexpected...

Even when I think I have the perfect routine set up for Maddy, she
always seems to surprise me by doing something completely out of the
ordinary. We spent several weekends building a "Maddy-proof" cage, and
after each weekend Maddy was able to find a weakness, we got used to
expecting the unexpected with Maddy. In an educational setting we are
surrounded by smart and witty students who are always doing things we
think we have prepared for, but in fact we get something completely
unexpected. One of the most important traits of being a successful
educator is being flexible, mobile, and easily able to make adjustments
at the drop of a dime. Maddy has provided me a helpful reminder on why
this trait is so crucial as it pertains to the ever-changing educational

3 - Failure does not mean we should give up...

If we gave up on trying to train Maddy every time she failed to do what
we requested of her, we would have given up a long time ago. No matter
how much we train and prepare Maddy, it is quite common for us to
experience failure on a weekly and at times daily basis. Now, perhaps
this has something to do with Maddy's trainers (we never claimed to be
Cesar Millan), but we have also taken a pledge to never give up on her.
It is vital that we take the same approach with our students and staff
members. We are not always going to achieve success because that is
something we can't always control, but we can control if or whether we
give somebody another chance. By not giving up on somebody we are
showing we are human, and by doing this we can empower our students and
staff members to accept failure as a natural part of the growth process.
Maddy has been growing exponentially because of this learned lesson :)

4 - You can't return them...so figure out a way to make it work...

One week into our journey with Maddy as our newest addition to the
family, we experienced a day for which we weren't quite ready. In one
day Maddy managed to potty in the house (# 1 and # 2), eat and destroy
the cord to the laptop, and make quite a large scratch in our wood
floors. Needless to say, Maddy was on the chopping block, but
fortunately we made the right choice and made adjustments to accommodate
our new furry friend. We are both encouraged and forced to do the same
with our students and staff members. They are not going anywhere, and
because they are not leaving it is essential that we make adjustments
and modifications so we can make it work. Who knows, the old saying
"You're growing on me," might just come true, and I believe that
relationships started under stress can end up being the strongest.

5 - Enjoy their company...because they won't be here forever...

Maddy is a little more than a year old, however Buddy, my childhood dog,
is 13 years old. Buddy was one of the main reasons why we decided to
purchase Maddy. As sad as it is to think this way, we almost wanted to
find a replacement for Buddy even though he is still with us. We hope
Buddy can be with us for many more years, but the reality is...he
won't. We have thoroughly enjoyed bringing Buddy and Maddy together so
they can play and enjoy each other's company, and it is evident that
Maddy's youth rubs off on Buddy's more wise and relaxed demeanor. Our
students and staff members all bring something valuable to the table,
and it is our job to find out how to tap into this value, and figure out
as many ways as possible to share it. Take advantage of their
presence, and relish their time in your life, because with our fast
paced society they will be gone before you know it. Buddy's legacy will
live on even after his time comes, but it just won't be the same. The
presence of others makes everything worth it, so please do not take it
for granted.

Our four-legged friends may be a lot of work, and it is certain they
will present us with numerous challenges, but as educators we must
always remember that...

"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going." - Beverly Sills

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