## Teachers should take risks

The following journal article:

Risk Taking: A Distinguishing Factor of Good versus Great Teachers
by Gayle A. Brazeau, PhD, finishes with the statement:

“Perhaps risk taking is what in the end distinguishes a good teacher from a great teacher”.

With this encouragement, I decided to take a risk at the end of the 2013 school year. I ran my idea past our assistant principal who, like Mr. Gillespie, put his trust in me.

What was the risk you might ask?

Outdoor maths?

An excursion to the local racetrack to investigate probability and gambling?

No, No, No. Bringing my 5 year old, chocolate brown Labradoodle (Gary) into my Friday afternoon Year 8 Mathematics class!

Hey, give me a break, I hadn’t gone completely insane? After all, there is some good examples of dogs used in the classroom. Dogs in the classroom can be used to calm fears, relieve anxiety and teach skills. For example, Morgan:

“A high school student sat at a work table, feeling extremely upset. Sensing the students anxiety, Morgan, a 3-1/2-year-old certified therapy dog, wandered over to her and put his head on her lap. After a little while, she felt better and was able to focus on learning again.

Morgan is a cross between a golden retriever and a poodle — a Goldendoodle. His silvery-black coat is more hypo-allergenic than the coats of most other dogs, which makes him a good choice to work with students at Palmyra-Macedon High School in Palmyra, New York. He is one of seven therapy dogs in this district of about 2,200 students.

When students show signs of stress or anger, Morgan joins them and helps them calm down.

 Morgan gravitates toward kids who are loaners, and he really brightens their day.

He’s quite a dog, he really is, said Jim Blankenberg, Morgans owner. Morgan has the ability to sense stress, and he goes to the stressed-out student. He’s like a Teddy Bear students can hug”.

THE PLAN

Introducing and getting to know Gary. Incorporate Gary into a lesson on measuring and converting speed. Essential question:

“Can Gary beat Usain Bolt in a 100m sprint”.

WHAT HAPPENED

All except one of the year 8 kids loved Gary. He got lots of pats and wagged his tail furiously. We took him out to the oval and marked out 100m with a trundle wheel. One student assigned to hold Gary at the start line. Another student ready to time Gary using their smart phone. I told Gary to stay and walked to the finish line. Gary sat patiently waiting for the “COME” command. Good dog! I yelled “COME GARY” with the usual hand actions.

Gary spent the first 3 to 5 seconds frolicking with his handlers before racing to me. Time: 15 seconds. Failure. Perhaps I should have used some bait?

Any comments? Have you ever seen or heard of dogs used in a classroom or school?