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In the Beginning, Part I

Summer is a time for relaxing and resetting your energy meter so you are ready for the next school year to begin. Last May, we brought home our puppy which we named Murphy and which was contraindicated to this goal. It became obvious to me right away that I had forgotten about all of the energy and work that goes into raising a puppy to make it ready for the world. As the weeks passed, I started having déjà vu moments that brought me back to the beginning of each school year. So many of the lessons I was relearning about puppy-raising were ones I had been incorporating into the beginning of the school year each year.

This two-part blog post is dedicated to all of you preparing to greet your students in just a few short weeks. The first two lessons are outlined in this post, with the remaining three to be covered in the next one. May the lessons I relearned this summer with Murphy act as reminders to you as you plan for this most important time of year.


We started learning about Murphy (then known as Teddy) from our first meeting with his rescue mom. We wanted to know as much about his temperament as possible, so we ran him through some “Get to Know Me” puppy exercises and learned he caught on quickly, wasn’t too dominate or submissive, and could give you a look that would melt you. We continue to learn more about him, but the first few weeks were critical in that we learned the ebb and flow of his days, that he responded to both toys and treats, and that he had energy enough to power the grid for weeks. We could feel our bonds connecting and strengthening as each day passed.

This early time with Murphy is much like the early days of the school year when you first meet your students. You may wish to provide Student Interest Inventories to aid in getting to know their personalities, likes, and dislikes. There are a variety to choose from, from self-made to those already available, many of these on-line.(Find some by searching Student Interest Surveys.)I cannot impress upon you enough the importance of providing time to learn as much about the personal interests of your students as you can. There are also previous school records you can look at in order to get a brief look at where each student may be performing as well as possible learning and behavior needs. However, don’t let this information set in stone your views of the students . Rather, use them as a starting point from which you will fill in the rest.


As the early days passed, at times I thought we had a super puppy and other times I thought he was possessed. On a couple of occasions, he would charge the couch and propel his tiny body at mine. Initially, I wondered why he had grown to hate me so. But upon further review, I realized Murphy was tired and overstimulated, thus rendering what little impulse control he had null and void. So we regrouped and set up a more strategic schedule, watching for early warning signs of when he was tiring and getting naptime started pronto! Similar less-than-stellar behavior was manifest when he started chewing on shoes and the couch. We translated this behavior to mean he needed something to aid him during his teething phase as well as something to keep him from getting bored. We made sure to have a variety of toys that were good for teething as well as those that provided more mental stimulation. Once we interpreted his behaviors as a way he was communicating his needs, we found it easier to respond appropriately and see our super puppy more frequently!

As you begin to meet your new students and observe how they react to new and different situations, take note of the antecedents to their behaviors and attempt to interpret the cause based on what led up to the actions. Be sure to use what you have learned about them from the Student Interest Inventories and other beginning of the year activities to help in the translation so you can better pinpoint what they are trying to tell you. You can then create a plan of action that appropriately responds to the needs of your students. By looking at students’ negative behaviors through the lens of a communication of needs, positive actions can be taken to meet those needs and extinguish unwanted behaviors.

These were two of the lessons I am revisiting this summer as we welcome Murphy into our family. In the next blog post, I will share three additional thoughts:

1. Positive Rewards Save the Day;

2. Provide Plenty of Mental/Physical Exercise; and

3. Set Aside Alone Time.

Until then, get plenty of rest, relax and have some fun in your remaining days of summer!


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