Tuesday, February 16, 2010


      My brother hooked me onto "The Dog Whisperer." He has dogs; I do not. But watching Caesar Millan take these animals -- neurotic, aggressive, terrified, withdrawn -- and within a day or so change them into well-adjusted pets is inspiring to watch.
     The dogs obey. They wait patiently. They wag their tails. Of course, much of his work is teaching the dog's owners how to act around their pets, but both humans and dogs appear immensely pleased. Dog and human now know what is expected of them. Everyone wins.
     I don't have dogs. But I do have classrooms of children. How could I not see the connection? I think my students enjoy coming to class -- they laugh, they chatter -- but still, there are those days. Whining children. Argumentative children. Pouting children.
     I do feel a bit ashamed, connecting the training dogs to the teaching children. Apparently, though, I'm not the only one. Belkin in her New York Times blog, Motherload, tells how many others think of Millan as "The Child Whisperer."
      I must say, after "The Dog Whisperer," I no longer feel the need to justify my words or actions to my students. I establish the rules in the classroom and the consequences for not following them. I periodically review these with the class (though not when anyone is disruptive). When someone acts up, I nod or point. The child knows what to do; if she choose not to follow the silent directive, there's a second -- or even a third -- consequence. From my nod or my point, she knows. I say nothing. (Okay, I'm not completely cured of that. I do have my days.)
     When I now ask these K-6 students who's "boss" in the room, they all point at me. They do it very matter-of-factly. No laugh, no smirk. They point. They know.
     Too bad there was no "Dog Whisperer" when I was raising my boys. I would have been a better parent. A lot less arguing. I would have been a lot happier.
     I'm sure my boys would have been, too.

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