Getting to Know You

We have a new dog at our house. She is a six year old American Water Spaniel. We already have a six year old male American Water Spaniel named Bob, who we brought home when he was about 10 weeks old back in 2003. He has his routines and while he's not always perfectly behaved we pretty much know what to expect from him. Joey is a different story. She's been with us 2 weeks. During that time we spent the first couple days soothing Bob's ruffled fur and began to teach Joey the outdoor boundaries of her new home. We've discovered she likes to chew on pillows and rugs, she's happy to go to her crate while we're at work, she can eat really fast, she loves to run but comes back when we tell her she's going to far. So far one of us always goes out side with them. We live close to the road and have kept Bob safe by installing one of those invisible fences when he was a pup. Now we are training Joey and it has been bumpy. She's run through a couple times. Bob has helped that along by barking madly and charging at some unseen (by us) intruder. He halts right at the boundary as Joey sails through. This leads to more training. It requires a different kind of patience to train an adult dog to the routine of a new home. Even though she is well behaved and came from a situation where she was treated well there's a lot we don't know about her. We are learning to communicate with each other.

While all of this has been going on I have been at work getting things ready for the upcoming start of school. Working with Bob and Joey got me thinking about students and teachers. Each new school year brings a new set of students and teachers together. Sometimes they know each other a bit by virtue of being in the same school for years in a row. Sometimes everything is new. Either way there is a period of figuring each other out which is often enjoyable but sometimes it can be fraught with problems. The early days are spent establishing routine and communication. Some students easily adjust to the demands of their new environment while others struggle. The way struggles resolve develop the climate of the classroom and ultimately the school. These aren't win and lose propositions. It's a matter of working things out and in the best of all possible worlds the adults (parents and teachers) are working together. Each new school year there is a bit of figuring things out and learning to communicate that goes on between teachers and families too. It can be hampered if folks think they know "all about" that family or that teacher. When you get right down to it none of us really knows what another person is thinking or why they react the way they do. Often the biggest barrier to communication is a person's perception of what the other person thinks of them. I often do presentations for parent groups. A couple years ago I was at a parent meeting in a small school district talking about ways to support your child with school situations. It was a nice group and as I spoke I made eye contact with different folks. I noticed one gentleman sitting with his arms crossed and what I thought was a scowl on his face. So as I'm talking I'm having this inner dialogue, "I wonder if his wife made him come? Maybe I said something he didn't like. Maybe he thinks I'm taking too long." As I concluded I asked if anyone had questions or comments. The disgruntled looking man was the first to raise his hand. I acknowledged him and he wanted to know if I had any suggestions for getting your kids to open up and talk when they had problems. His question led to a great discussion. Afterwards as I was gathering my things he and his wife stopped to let me know they'd enjoyed the evening and he commented that he'd like to see parent meetings happen more frequently. I sure misjudged his perception of the presentation. Since then I have made a conscious effort to remember people I encounter have a myriad of things in their lives as do I. Rather than taking things personally the best assumption to start with is that all of us do the best we can at the time.

Besides pondering the ups and downs of communicating I've spent a lot of time this summer revamping the Wisconsin Parent Educator Connection web site. I'll be rolling out the new version in the next couple weeks but it's still online if you'd like to take a look at it now. Check out the calendar in the side bar for upcoming k-12 parent and educator trainings and workshops in Wisconsin. There's also a link to the new Parent Educator discussion group. All you have to do to participate in that is register.

That's all for now. I have some dogs to walk.

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