I’m a dog guy. I didn’t really know it until later in life. Our family had cats when I was growing up. I remember Frisky and Misty, but those memories are somewhat cloudy as I was fairly young. After I got married and moved to Arizona, my wife and I adopted our first dog, Virginia, named after the state in which we met. She was a beautiful black lab, but cancer took her from us too soon. She did get to both of our kids; however, she was not around long enough for them to have any vivid memories. But, after having Virginia, we quickly became a dog family. Flash forward to today, and we have three wonderful dogs at home. Hero is a loving, carefree Golden Retriever, who we have owned since he was eight-weeks old. We also have two yellow Labrador Retrievers, Ginger and Obi. Both are rescue dogs, and both are incredibly sweet and loving in their own way. Three dogs in the house is “a lot of dog” as we like to say, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
As I reflect on my love of dogs and my tolerance of cats, it conjures up some connections to our roles as educators. First, I believe effective teachers mirror some of the characteristics of dogs. When I come home from work, our three dogs are absolutely overjoyed to see me – a barrage of wagging tails, playful jumps, and flops at my feet. With a greeting like this, the worries and stresses of the day can quickly disappear. With teaching, I am always impressed with those teachers who provide that warm, positive greeting as students enter the room. Granted, I’m not sure we want teachers jumping playfully and flopping on the ground; however, students do respond positively when teachers take those brief moments before class to welcome them and to show excitement and gratitude that the student has come to class.
Second, dogs express an unconditional love and support of you, no matter the situation. I have met many teachers who have this unconditional love and support for students, the belief that all students can succeed. There may be times when students will let us down, possibly with the choices they make or with the effort they give. But, effective teachers have an unconditional and unwavering belief that all students can learn and achieve.
As an educator, I’ve grown to love cats too – but in this case, I am referring to Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs). I was first introduced to CATs over a decade ago while working at the Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction (MCLI). My supervisor at the time handed me a copy of the Angelo and Cross foundational text, Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. To this day, I still refer to this book as I interact with faculty during classroom observations. CATs are quick and easy informal strategies to measure student learning in the classroom. Some instructors at GCC have completely embraced CATs, using minute-papers or the muddiest point strategy to gauge how well students learned the content and objectives for the class session. My personal favorite CAT is the ticket-out. With this strategy, instructors provide students with a brief question or two at the end of class. Students must write their answers on a note-card or slip of paper and that is their ticket out from class. These informal techniques allow instructors to get a sense of what students learned from the class and what students may have missed, with the ultimate goal of providing additional instruction the next time the class meets or to even provide additional content in Canvas to fill in any gaps. These low-stakes, quick assessment strategies are an effective way to measure student learning and an excellent teaching strategy to help students to achieve.
I am a dog guy – there is no question about that. However, there is definitely a special place for CATs in my teaching heart as well.