A Teaching Lesson From Professor

This is Professor. He is our family’s beloved black lab that seems to always know exactly what each family member needs. I have learned about unconditional love, instant forgiveness, and many other life lessons from Professor. Here’s what I learned about leading my students from this beautiful dog. 


Professor is a terrible walker. Flat out the worst walker, but he absolutely loves walks. I am usually met at the door by him with his leash in his mouth. I must admit as cute as this is, I have to talk myself into this grueling task each night. We start each walk the same: leash being attached, Professor giddy and jumping, then off the porch we fly! We start out the first few yards in full sprint and it all goes downhill from there. He stops every few seconds to sniff something. He is 100 lbs, so when he stops, I stop. Any attempt on pulling him is futile and I become frustrated as he dictates my walking agenda. I want to lead him with purpose….We are on a walk, so let’s walk! He usually responds in a few ways to my leading (pulling) him: 1. He will refuse and sit there. 2. He will tug back on the leash and continue his own agenda while ignoring mine. And 3. The worst, he will take off running with me scrambling behind him. “Why did I even come on this walk?” would run through my head each night until I started listening to his needs and gave up my reign of control. 

Why was I on a mission to have him walk so quickly and orderly around the neighborhood? It wasn’t because I needed more steps. I had already walked my 10,000 steps and 5 flights each day teaching. It was because I believed “good dog walkers” walked their dog with orderly purpose. If I wasn’t waking him like everyone else, then I was a bad dog walker, right? Both Professor and I were miserable. Yes, he was excited each night to go, but by the end of our walks, we both were spent and needed time away from each other. 

I began to listen to my sweet dog and decided to give him the lead. I would be there to guide him away from the trash cans at the end of driveways, look both ways for him at the corners, and keep him from chasing every squirrel up the tree. Most importantly though, I would let him take me places he felt important. He now sniffs his way around the neighborhood, with me in tow. It may not look like the other dog walkers, but Professor and I both are now enjoying his adventures.

In listening to Professor and coming to terms with what he needed from me, I have been able to restructure my teaching style. I began to wonder, “Are my students on my agenda or am I listening to their needs as learners?” Was I giving them their opportunity to “sniff” out the world so learning becomes an adventure? Or am I tugging and pulling them to learn “the way others feel it should be done?” Here’s the thing, just like me meeting my steps for the day and not needing more, I have also learned it’s my students turn to learn, not mine. Giving up control doesn’t mean you lose control. It means that you are there to proactively guide each student on their education journeys. 

Lessons from a sweet pup! 

I must go… Professor is holding his leash for his adventure walk.

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