Lessons from Boji

Wow! I can’t believe it has been about a month since my last post. I guess you can say I’ve been on a blogging hiatus. I appreciate all the readers I’ve had during these past several weeks. Thank you for stopping by!

Between teaching an online summer class (Reading in the Content Area) and adopting (rescuing) a dog – I’ve been busy. Yes, on Saturday, June 25, I became the proud owner of a 3-year-old Schnoodle. Friends have been urging me to consider adopting a dog for some time. I love dogs and thoroughly enjoyed my childhood dog, but the timing has never seemed right. I always found an excuse. I have drug my heals long enough! There is never going to be an absolute right time. My neighbor, a dog rescuer for Noah’s Hope, had a feeling this one fit all the criteria I was looking for in a dog. She was right.

Boji (front) with Buddy (back) – my inspiration to get a dog.

To begin with, over the course of the last few months I’ve had the opportunity to dog-sit a friend’s dog on occasion. I’ve learned what it was like to have a constant companion at my side. One that was there to lift my spirits, make me laugh, and bring joy. One to greet me when I came home and “listen” to the events of my day.  When my friend would return, my home would feel empty, not to mention I was back to talking to myself. It was during these quiet, dog-less times that I discovered I, too, needed a constant companion of my own.

In the few weeks of having a dog of my own, my little Boji has reminded me of some powerful lessons – which of course have educational ties.

Names are important: It took me a while to name my new dog. He came with a name, but it wasn’t one that meant anything to me. I did worry about renaming a dog, but after some research (data-based decision-making is a must) I decided it was fine.  After a lot of suggestions from friends and family I landed on Boji; named after Lake Okoboji in Iowa. The lakes area are full of many memories, both past and present. While several friends and family caught the connection right away, the name has gotten a few inquires as to the meaning. The inquires have been very respectful. The lakes area is apart of my “culture,” but not everyone’s. The name provides me an opportunity to share my memories with others.

  • Student names are just as important and unique to the individual. Not only is it important to learn our student’s names, it is equally important for us to respect each students’ name by learning how to correctly pronounce it. Names are our identity to ourselves, our heritage and culture – something we all have! Parents may have deliberated for a long time for the right name (as I did with Boji) or could have had the name determined long before the child was born. Unfortunately, I’ve heard stories of teachers changing a student’s name to something that was easier for them to pronounce or consistently mispronounced (or spelled) a student’s name. Neither is a sign of respect.

Do you have tips for remembering students’ names? As an aspiring principal is my goal to learn the name of every student in the school. 

Everyone is unique: I know very little about Boji’s first three years of life. It has been fun getting to know his unique traits. I see some areas that will need direct attention. Some in particular are his fear of the back door, uneasiness to venture outside and the basement. He is also skittish of the rolled up newspaper I bring in the house each morning. I’m concerned about his past and if these areas brought about some trauma for him. Yet, I am unable to change his past. What matters is how I address his needs and help him learn that I am a caring individual in his life. Going close to the back door and the uneasiness to venture outside are the first areas I am addressing. The basement can wait, or isn’t even necessary. The newspaper – I simply unroll it very fast or bring in when he’s not looking.

  • Each of our students are unique. They carry with them their past and their current circumstances, which we do not have the liberty to change or wish were different. We can only directly assist students during the time they are in our care. We can make sure we make every minute count in the classroom. If we feel there are areas parents/care takers can help at home, we may need to ask ourselves “what are we doing to assist them with these efforts?”  Providing parents with too many suggestions will be unproductive. Helpful suggestions are sometimes lost in educational jargon. We need to decide which are most pertinent to the student’s education. It will take more than wishing parents provide additional learning opportunities at home. Words without actions are counterproductive.

Besides learning the names of each student in the school, my goal is to also learn of the unique characteristics each child brings with them. Being able to strike up a meaningful conversation with each student (and teacher) is one way to build lasting relationships.

Instruction is key: I have high aspirations and expectations for Boji. My long-range goal includes having him become a certified therapy dog – especially one to read with kids at the Sioux City Public Library. Right now, he doesn’t know the many of the basics. The first command we have been working on is “to come.” He is doing well in the backyard and in the house with small treats. Yet, as soon as I get close to the backdoor and it appears we are going outside, he freezes or runs away from me. Training is going to need to be often, consistent and based on his specific needs. I will need to be explicit and continue to gather formative assessment data along the way. I’ve signed US up for a 7 week basic training class. The first class is a private lesson and then we will be with other dog owners and their pets. Differentiation no doubt will also play a role in this training class!

  • Instruction is the key to our profession! We are charged with providing each student in our classrooms a quality education. Instruction needs to be consistent and based on each students needs. Formative assessment and differentiated instruction play a critical role in our classrooms. A one-size fits all approach is not always effective.

How do you provide differentiated instruction in your classroom? Are their tips you can share with others? What role has technology integration played? We’d love to hear about your methods and ideas!

I know Boji will remind me of other powerful lessons. Look for more to come. I just haven’t quite figure out the educational connection to his desire to sleep all day. Getting our rest is important – but, boy can this dog snooze!


  • Aviva (@grade1) 9 Jul

    Boji is adorable. As always, I love how you make connections between your life happenings and the classroom. Another great post, Kathy!


  • Robin Phares 9 Jul

    You are so amazing. The way you connect your personnel life to your professional life demonstrates the love you have for learning. We should all be so lucky as to have an educator in our life like you. I know that you are going to make an incredible principal one day and believe deep in my heart there is a school with a little boy or girl just waiting to be touched by you and your gift.
    The fact that you have already set your goals for a job that you do not have shows me the depth of how much you want (need) that job.
    Don’t give up! Someone is waiting for you my friend!

  • Fran McVeigh 9 Jul

    Boji is so lucky to have a human friend like you who cares so deepy and thoughtfully for him. As Robin said, thanks for the connections. The parallels between naming Boji and treating him as an individual with the way we should be treating oue students is incredibly important. When the school is a safe haven with everyone treated respectfully, students can flourish and grow! That’s the prerequiste. Learning will follow!

    Thanks for the great post!

  • Cindy, creator of Flip Flop Math 9 Jul

    I like how you connected your relationship with Boji to education. It was fun to read. You have a great goal to learn all your students’ names and something about them. Wow! I teach first grade and make that a goal every year, especially learning their names the first day, so when they walk in the second day, I can greet them by name.
    You asked about differentiated instruction. If you are interested in how I differentiate math explorations throughout the day in my classroom, go to http://www.flipflopmath.com for ideas, centers, games, and materials.

  • msreagan 10 Jul

    Wow! What an amazing post. I too have dogs who are a bit quirky so I love the way that you tied that in to teaching our students. You made Boji come alive in your post and made me want to be a better teacher. It has always been important to me to learn my students’ names. I feel horrible when I have one that I have trouble with. I tell the student that its important to me to get it right and that they are allowed to correct me. I hope that this shows the students that we are not perfect and that it helps create a better relationship in my classroom. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  • danielbeylerian 10 Jul

    Well written post. Thank you.

    When I entered a new school in Grade 8, my homeroom teacher gave me the opportunity to have a fresh start. I am of Armenian descent and carry a first name of Armenian Royalty http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abgar_V_of_Edessa but in an white anglo-saxon protestant part of Montreal in the 1970’s it sounded odd and I was teased relentlessly. I decided over the summer that I would choose a new name for myself. I wanted a name that both anglophones and francophones could relate to and pronounce correctly. It had a short (Dan) and long version (Daniel), informal (Danny) and formal (Daniel) variations as well. So I decided on the name but was unsure how to introduce it in the new school. On the first day of school, the homeform teacher took attendance and instructed us to respond to the calling out of our family name with the first name of our choice. So Benjamin could choose Ben and Christopher could choose Chris, and so on. She called my family name, and I responded with “Danny”. She did a double take of her attendance sheet and looked at me with a puzzled look. I returned her stare with my own intent look and repeated “Danny”. “Ok, Welcome Danny!” she said and that was that.
    So every semester when I take attendance for the first time in my classes I present these very simple instructions: “I’ll call out your last name and you answer with your first name.”

    Every student is unique and their name is a part of that uniqueness.

  • erin 24 Mar

    I don’t even know how I stumbled on this page… My dog was Boji also… He was the dog love of my life and I lost him two months ago…. He was a different breed than your Boji, but similar faces… a couple of these pictures look very much like pictures I have of my Boji!

    • Kathy Perret 24 Mar

      So sorry to hear about your loss. How did you arrive at the name Boji? My Boji is named after Lake Okoboji in Iowa.

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