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A Master Teacher

Over the course of the last 14 weeks I have had the opportunity to watch a Master Teacher at work. I discovered her in an unlikely place and have become a better educator because of her teaching techniques.

This story begins when I rescued a 4-year-old Schnoodle this past summer. Knowing that I had high hopes for this little fellow prompted me to find a trainer right away. In walked, Master Teacher, Steph Anderson. Boji and I couldn’t be happier.

Through my blogging I have tried to link everyday occurrences to area of education. It is through this reflection that I strengthen my own existence in the field. Learning should never be confined the classroom or school walls!

Ever since spending time with Angela Maiers about a year ago and staying in contact with her through Twitter, I have been concentrating on making sure students (and teachers) know that THEY MATTER and that they are geniuses and the world demands their contribution. During our first few dog training lessons I picked up on the fact that Steph also promotes this with her 4-legged canine friends! She constantly reminds us to tell our dogs how smart they are! My little Boji lives up to his smartness and he will continue to make his contribution to the world.

As a Master Teacher, Steph, wants her learners (both the dog owner and pet) to feel comfortable in acquiring new skills. To do so she utilizes a wide variety of excellent teaching strategies.

  • Explicit Instruction/Direct Instruction: Steph is constantly modeling the techniques introduced. She explains each command in an effective manner and provides demonstrations with a dog from the class. She is quick to remodel when she sees necessary.
  • Knowing the Learner: Steph keeps a keen eye on both the dogs and dog owners. It is evident that she wants each to feel successful. One example was how she helped ease my dog into a difficult task. The goal was to put our dogs in a sit/stay position and to walk totally away from our dog (expecting them to stay where they were.) One-by-one she asked each person in the class to walk around the training room and then return to their dog. During the first night she didn’t ask me to leave Boji. She stated that since Boji is a rescue dog and has some separation anxiety, it would be best to ease him into this task. The following week Boji had his turn to shine! Even though Boji shook the entire time I was away from him, he stayed in his sit/stay position! It was at that moment I realized just how much progress Boji had made! A proud parent moment indeed! It was hard to fight back a tear or two!
  • Specific Feedback: Steph provides the dog owners feedback as they learn to execute the new command. Feedback is specific in order to guide the new learning and avoid or overcome mistakes.
  • Formative Assessment: It is evident that Steph continually collects formative assessment data. Her ability to know both the needs each dog owner and dog guides further instruction.  This allows for instruction to build on each student’s (person and/or canine) past successes.
  • Differentiation: The range of mastery among dogs and owners alike vary in each class. Steph is able to differentiate the learning. For example, some dogs may be ready to be off leash, while others are not. She never makes anyone feel they have to be at the exact same spot in their training efforts. She knows that each owner has different goals for their dogs (obedient in society/dog shows/therapy dog, etc…) and is able to address each effectively.
  • Knowing the Content: Steph has a vast amount of experience in dog training and showing dogs in competitions. She is at ease with her content yet understands that each person/dog in the class are new to the content she is so familiar with. Technical jargon is explained and modeled.

Boji and I feel very fortunate to work with a Master Teacher weekly. We know we are in good hands with Steph Anderson! I’m confident Boji is about ready to embark on his next adventure – applying to work towards becoming a certified therapy dog. In the mean time, we’ll both enjoy our next round of lessons. Not only do have the opportunity to work with our Master Teacher/friend, it is a good time for Boji to be around other dog!

Understanding your dog and knowing how to control him, develop his potentials, and resolve behavior problems, emotional conflicts and frustrations are no less essential than love and respect.

~Michael W. Fox


Update: Since this post Boji did go on to become a Therapy Dog with The K9 STARS Program in Sioux City. We enjoy listening to children read at the Sioux City Public Library.