Welcome to 2018 and the 2nd semester of the 2017-2018 school year. I intended to submit a new blog post closer to the first of the year, but things got off to a busy start and haven't slowed down!
In December, Sarah and I sadly said goodbye to our beloved beagle, Flash. He lost his battle to canine lymphoma, and while he was only 8 years old, we learned that this terrible disease can strike at any age. I continue to think about Flash everyday, and I thought it would be fitting to tribute this blog post to his memory. With that, I am going to talk about the life lessons that he gave us, and how those lessons can be applied to teaching.
First, I have to tell you a little bit about how Flash came into our lives. While I was teaching in Seward, one of my students found out that Sarah and I love dogs (we already had 2 other dogs), and he proceeded to tell me that he bred beagles. The very next evening at the end of high school marching band camp, his mother brought the entire littler to play in the band room. Only 5 weeks old at the time, they were tiny and adorable. Flash seemed to be the self-proclaimed "boss" of the litter, as he led the others astray, usually into mischief. He even peed on the band room floor that evening (don't worry, it was a tile floor and cleaned up easily!). He won our hearts, and we made arrangements to pick him up at the student's farm when he was old enough to leave the litter (typically 8-9 weeks old). From there, Flash gave us a life time of love, companionship, and goofiness. While I could write a thick novel about all that he taught us, here are some of the important life lessons that he gave me, and could serve as a great reminder of what is really important!
1. Flash did not care what anyone thought of him. Our vet diplomatically stated that Flash "had an enthusiasm for life." This was perhaps best portrayed by Flash's persistent howl or beagle "bay" while we were on walks. Those who didn't know Flash or understand beagles thought something was wrong with him. Those who did couldn't help but smile and laugh. I think this is a meaningful lesson because in the standards and assessment era of education, it is very easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves to others: other classrooms, schools, or school districts. But we must remember that true significance is not found in comparing ourselves to others. Flash was the ultimate example of this.
2. Be present and in the moment. In education, we are always planning, preparing, and reflecting: weekly/monthly lesson plans, chapters/units, curriculum mapping, looking at assessment data and analyzing the effectiveness of our teaching, and the list goes on. As a band director, I often struggled to fully appreciate or celebrate a great performance because my mind was already looking ahead to what was next. While it is great to keep improving, we need to remember to be present and stay in the moment too. Flash did this exceptionally well, and it didn't matter if it was going for a walk or hanging out on the deck on a beautiful Autumn evening. He simply knew how to be present .
3. Have fun and don't take yourself too seriously! This ties in with items 1-2, and it also stands nicely by itself. Hopefully by now you have gathered that Flash also excelled at this one. When I reflect on some of my greatest memories from being in the classroom as a band director, it was when the students and I were having fun preparing a piece of music. To make learning fun is really to engage the students, and that is something that we should all strive to do everyday. Think about your own experiences as a student: did you enjoy memorizing the names of the capitols of all 50 states, or did you enjoy the teacher who brought this learning to life by doing something incredible or unique?
4. Love others and be loyal. Much easier said than done, right? Flash was incredibly loving and loyal. I have never had a dog that had to be by my side no matter what I was doing. Flash was a good example that you don't have to like everyone (and not everyone will like you), but you should still try to love them. As teachers, we certainly deal with difficult students, parents, and even colleagues that are all difficult to like. By trying to love them, we agree to put our differences aside and still try to do our best. This was also a common lesson I tried to teach my high school band leadership team when conflicts occurred. In the real world, you simply are not going to like everyone that you have to work with, but you need to set that aside and keep working together towards the ultimate goal.
5. Be consistent. Flash was stubborn, which is characteristic of all beagles. When I think back to his stubbornness, I see how he was really just being consistent. If there was a scent that he was enjoying sniffing in the backyard, he was going to continue to enjoy sniffing it no matter how many times I called for him to come inside. In the evenings where Sarah and I had time to watch TV downstairs, Flash had to sit in his assigned spot--right next to me. If the other dogs wanted to sit by me, they needed to find another time to do it because this was Flash's routine and he made it clear. As teachers we need to be consistent by giving our students our best effort everyday, no matter how challenging life can be at times.
Again, these are some of the big life lessons that Flash taught me, but I could go on with more funny stories and the lessons that were learned as a result of them. I miss Flash everyday, but I am thankful for the time that he was with us, and I believe this blog post is a great tribute to him. It's my best hope that these stories will make you smile, and serve as a reminder of what is really important!
Ben is the Technology Integration Specialist at ESU 4 in Auburn, NE. He is also a Google for Education Certified Trainer.