Teacher Life

Being a teacher these days is a tricky business.  A state wide teacher strike and the political discussions of having teachers be responsible for keeping children alive hasn’t been easy.  Teaching has always been tough, I’ve been in this business for 13 years and it’s never been a walk in the park…but it has always been worth it.  The kids, no matter what stress, bad press, or complication have always been the focus and the job.

I think Luna has started to feel the same way.  She loves the kids…she loves the staff as well.  With all of the stress lately, she’s been needed more than ever and I think  she knows it.  This girl has stepped up her game!  I’ve been working hard with some tough kiddos who have a very hard time regulating themselves and have some big behaviors because of it.  They try so hard but man is it tricky and trying to fight some really ingrained impulsivity at such a young age is difficult.  That being said, I raised the bar and so did they…in the good way thank goodness!  The kids have been working hard and if they get to their goal they get to do training with Luna.  It’s impressive how hard kids work when Luna is involved.  I’ve had 5 of 9 kids working on this goal and they have met it lately.  It’s been awesome to watch them train Luna and it’s been fabulous to have Luna listening to kids and learning to ignore distractions.  WIN WIN!!!  YAY!  Enjoy the video!

Until next time,

Mrs. Cantwell

It’s been awhile

I’m not even going to pretend to have an excuse for why it’s been so long since I have written a blog post.  I have been swamped and the fact that I even considered writing a weekly or monthly blog about Miss Luna was a bit overzealous.  Soooo, how has it been going???  AMAZING!  I know I keep saying that but this four-legged, fluffball is sooooooo good at her job.  We have a lot of little wins every day.  She cheers kids up everywhere we go and they instantly get excited to see her.  But now that some time has gone by we have had some really big changes as well.

First, kids have started working for time with Luna.  They are wanting to earn their time with her and if they show some consistent responsibility and improvement they can even get a “training session” with her.  She is a wonderful motivator for the kids.  This is a huge skill for kids to learn responsibility, compassion, resiliency and patience.  They don’t instantly get time with Luna, they have to earn it and it’s hard and I raise the bar and they are achieving it!  I’m so impressed with their skills.  Sometimes they will set a goal and then they will have a hard day and don’t get their time, this is a huge disappointment but it’s also a learning opportunity.  Kids have to fail and be disappointed and make those mistakes to learn resiliency and perseverance.  These life skills are hard to teach but Luna makes it a natural learning experience which is the best kind!

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Second, we have had less visits from our DRO (District Resource Officer) for escalated kids.  Luna is not used when kids escalate because of safety, however, kids know that and will not escalate when she is around or have learned to regulate so they can continue to have access to her.  This is a HUGE skill and a very powerful one that teachers work on forever, however, Luna can teach it so much better!  😉

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Lastly, Luna has started going into classrooms without me!  She’s been a reward for classrooms that have all their work in and has been joining classes for quiet time.  I’m thinking she may start joining classes for morning meetings as well.  One more step towards Luna being the employee of the month! 😉

So yes, we’ve been busy, changing one little life at a time.  Luna is a hard working, fabulous staff member at Hough and we are so happy to have her!

 

Until next time,

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Mrs. Cantwell

Luna’s continued journey…

It’s been awhile!  Luna and I have been really busy with the beginning of the school year and it has been so much fun!  We’ve been working hard at school teaching students social skills, compassion and empathy, along with calming students when they are feeling upset or frustrated.

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We had a FABULOUS “Book Character day!” Luna and I were dressed up as Dorothy and Toto and Anne was our Courageous Lion…the kids LOVED it.  One of my favorite days of teaching so far this year.  I feel like these are the moments kids remember about elementary school the most.  I will say it took me by surprise that quite a few kids didn’t know who Dorothy and Toto are though.  YIKES I feel old!  😉

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It’s common to have students who start out with a rough day and it can continue on and interrupt their ability to learn all day long.  At Hough, we work hard on building relationships with all students.  In doing so it’s easier to get on the kids level and help them in their tough moments.  However, when a child is really escalated or upset even a preferred adult might not do the trick.  We’ve run into this problem over and over again.  It’s been much easier with Luna on staff.  Kids have NO problem relating with a puppy!  She can have a kid go from “having a bad day” or “I hate my life” to giggling in about 10 minutes.  It’s remarkable to watch.  When this happens kids can go back to learning and forget about their woes for a while.  It may take some extra breaks intermittently throughout the day but ultimately it works.  I think Luna may have MAGICAL powers.  😉

We get to show Vancouver Public Schools the power of Luna on November 28th at the school board meeting.  They wrote an article about Luna as well and it is so fun to see and hear other schools wanting to do this in their own schools.  I honestly believe EVERY school needs a therapy dog. She is changing lives and making school a place where kids want to be and can learn.  Not only learn their academics but also learn how to be the best person they can be as a whole child.  I could not be more proud of the Hough staff and what we do to help support kids.

Until next time,

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Mrs. Cantwell

Highs and lows

This was a crazy week with a lot of highs and lows. That seems to be how it goes with teaching. Moments that remind you why you’re doing all this hard work, followed shortly by moments that make you wonder why you work so hard. It’s a push and pull that you don’t have in a lot of other jobs. Luna and I have had some amazing times lately where I can see her huge, undeniable benefit.

The Highs

Luna and I got to have a dance party with a student who met her goal and felt better about herself than I have ever seen in the last two years of working with her. It was an enormous win, the highest of high moments in teaching. Another high, Luna had to stay home last week because I was in meetings. Two of my most reluctant writers wrote signs/letters for Luna about missing her while she was out. It was beyond precious! Another highlight was our building DRO, Cruz, asked Luna for a hug. It’s her new skill we are working on. She loves to hug people and so we put a command to it and she LOVES it!

The Lows

The lows in a school can be uncomfortable and upsetting.  We had a student who was aggressive towards his family and refusing to come into the school one morning. This is a hard thing to see but he came with Luna and I as soon as we arrived on site. She’s a powerful comfort for our most vulnerable kids. The goal is to create an environment where kids want to be; and when they are at Hough, they thrive. Luna is a game changer in both of those goals for Hough and has really shown her strength as a staff member. Another low we’ve had are our students with anxiety and panic attacks. This seems to be more common in the last few years. Luna is nearly an instant relief for these kids. It’s so hard to see them so upset and out of control, but Luna can get them breathing and relaxed in less than 10 minutes. It’s incredible to watch. I just sit back and monitor, she’s incredible.

The highs and lows of teaching…Luna makes it look way too simple. 😜

Until next time,

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Mrs. Cantwell

The Whirlwind

Well, Luna didn’t believe me when I told her the beginning of the school year is just a crazy whirlwind.  She really didn’t believe how tired she would be at the end of each day. 🙂  It’s been a crazy start to the year and I’m finding I don’t get quite as much done when I try to walk down the hall with a puppy in tow but it’s been amazing to see the transformation that has happened at Hough in such a short period of time!  Luna continues to be a focal point and brings the students at Hough a positive vibe.  She is something the kids REALLY look forward to.  I really can’t go anywhere in the building without being asked “where is Luna” or hear “LUNA is HERE!”  I’m pretty easy to find these days.

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Luna’s favorite times are the first thing in the morning and when a small group comes in to play with her and give her all kinds of attention.  The morning routine is hilarious because you can always tell where Luna is, right in the middle of a swarm of children.  You can’t see her but you know she is there under the hands of about 20 kids.  I have to remind them to share, get to class before they are tardy and that she is available all day.  The kids really, really look forward to seeing her every morning. ❤

A school day in the life of Luna:

  1. Get swarmed by kids as the music plays (LOVE IT)
  2. Check in with some kiddos who need a good start to their day (LOVE IT)
  3. Hang out in my kennel while Mrs. Cantwell teaches groups (like it, don’t love it)
  4. Go for a walk down stairs to see Ms. Smith in the office for my daily treat (REALLY LOVE IT!)
  5. Hang out some more, play with my toys, have kids visit
  6. Potty break time
  7. Hang out some more
  8. Walk around the block during Mrs. Cantwell’s lunch
  9. Social groups!  (LOVE, LOVE IT)
  10. Lay in the hallway and watch the kids walk by getting ready to leave for the day (they always stop to say hello and give my head a good tussle).
  11. Check out with some kiddos who hopefully had a great day!

As much as the kids miss her when she isn’t there she misses them just as much.  🙂  The hard-working puppy LOVES her job and takes it seriously.

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Until next time,

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Mrs. Cantwell

Luna’s in Love with Hough

It was ridiculously hot at Hough this past week but Luna still loved every second of it!  I think last weekend she was sad and moped around the house because I didn’t bring her to school.  I thought she might have been sick or something with how she was acting but as it turns out she was just bored and missing her “kids”.  Luna has really started taking her responsibilities at Hough seriously.  We were able to visit nearly every classroom this week.  I had some really high hopes for her in at Hough, however, I sort of assumed it would take a little longer to see her full benefit.  She’s still such a puppy that I didn’t know what she would do when faced with the reality of a child in crisis who really needed her or groups of children swarming her.  Turns out, it doesn’t matter how old she is, she’s fully capable and ready to take on those challenges.

Two big success stories from this past week that are totally worth sharing.  I was so very proud of Luna on Tuesday.  Her day started with responding to a child in full crisis from a panic attack.  I’ve been working with this student for nearly a year and her panic attacks can last anywhere from 1.5-4 hours.  They are all-encompassing, loud, and exhausting.  I got a call that she was having one in the office so Luna and I went down to help respond.  The little girl was reluctant to have Luna help her at first and I wasn’t sure how Luna would handle the screaming and banging noises.  Luna didn’t flinch as I brought her into the office with me and sat down.  The little girl came and sat with us after a few minute and was completely calm and ready for me to leave in 10 minutes.  I have never really seen anything like it.  The little girl was so proud of herself for calming down so quickly and she was able to hang around with Luna and I for most of the morning but returned to class and finished her day in her classroom.  I was shocked!

Success story number two!  Hough has a self-contained classroom for children with significant behavioral disabilities.  This classroom has LOVED accessing Luna as a reward for good behavior.  When I was walking by with Luna as they were getting ready to start their day I told the teacher if he wanted Luna could do a greeting to them if they walked quietly and sat nicely in their desks to start the day.  The entire group of kids did just that and all got to start their day with a greeting and snuggle from Luna.  Later that day the kids who were still on best behavior got another chance to hang out with Luna.   When I talked to the teacher as the day ended he said it was one of their best days yet!

This girl is already making great waves at Hough and her benefit is being seen building wide.  I’m so proud of her and what she has been able to accomplish in just seven days of school.  Like I said, I had high hopes for her, but I never anticipated this kind of positive impact so early!  She is truly a blessing Hough Elementary School.

 

Until next time,

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Mrs. Cantwell

Luna’s first week!

Oh my gosh!  We did it!  We survived the first week of school! 🙂  This is typically a challenging week for teachers and students alike to adjust to new schedules and routines.  Well, we threw in an extra curveball and added a dog to the mix – why not! Ha!  Luna did FABULOUS at her “new job” this week. Actually, I have realized that I would love to be a therapy dog at a school for my next job.  Luna gets cared for and everyone enjoys her company all day and then takes naps in her down time.  What a fabulous life!

The first day of school we were able to be out in the front of the building meeting and greeting all our little Hough Hawks.  Luna loved every minute of it until the very large, noisy, yellow thing pulled up and let a herd of kids out.  The bus was quite frightening so she wanted to avoid it at all cost!  We backed away from the bus drop off area though, and were able to gain our composure back and continue with our morning greetings. Phew!

We were able to show her off at our beginning of the school year assembly and the kids responded really well.  We have a few rules around asking before petting and making sure Luna and I are not “on a mission” somewhere and nearly every child has been very respectful and responsible with those rules.

In all honesty, I didn’t know what to expect with Luna the first week.  I didn’t know if she would need to go home mid-day, be anxious around so many kids or have a hard time settling down.  It was all a mystery.  She blew me away with her ability to really do her job in the face of a crazy first day of school.  She has already helped some scared kindergarteners feel more comfortable entering the classroom, helped a kiddo who lost his great-grandpa this week and has been introduced to four classrooms full of students. (More on this experience in the next blog post!)  We are really looking forward to getting into more classrooms this week.

Things students have said so far:

“I’m so glad we have a dog at Hough, it makes it easier for me to leave my puppy at home”

“Luna really does make me feel better!”

“Can Luna come check on me in a little bit?”

“We are so lucky to have a dog at school!”

“I’m so glad I go to Hough, we get to pet a dog!”

“I’m glad I get one more year at Hough so I can see Luna.”

Overall, the impact Luna has shown over just three days alone is priceless.  She brings a special kind of “ju-ju” to Hough and I have a feeling this may be our best year yet!!

 

Until next time,

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Mrs. Cantwell

Luna’s Ready!

Well, we have really gotten used to having little Miss Luna in our home and she’s been so wonderful this summer.  She is a whirling dervish in the mornings and wants to jump, play, lick everyone in our home first thing when waking up.  We’ve done a few little travels and boy is she a great girl to take on the road.  Overall, it’s been a brilliant summer of getting to know her and her us.  Throughout the summer I’ve been taking her to Hough and doing some trainings with her there, both with and without students.  It’s funny to see her transformation from a shy puppy going into a “huge” school to her thinking she now owns the place and can go wherever she pleases.  🙂  We have done a few things such as morning meetings with the new kindergarteners in JumpStart and we’ve gone out to recess with them as well.  Luna loves nothing more than to be surrounded by children and loved on.  It’s literally her favorite thing in the whole world which is what makes her such a fabulous therapy dog in training. ❤

So where do we go from here? Luna will be joining the Hough staff this year as a therapy-dog-in-training so she will be in building for the mornings to start and then work her way up to full day, every day.  She’s still very much a puppy which means she has to take naps and needs her down time or she gets overstimulated and then her naughtiness comes out…typically this when she stops listening and gets really hyper and hard to settle down. 😉 It’s very important to set her up for success in the building just like our students.  We want her to be successful from day one so taking this process slow and steady will ensure that she is at Hough for a long time and she will be happy to be there.  WE can’t wait to see her in action this year!

So now that we have less than a week until school starts it’s time to gear up and get Luna and myself well rested and ready to go for the year!  We can’t wait and we will see you SO SOON!!

Until next time,

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Mrs. Cantwell

Also, don’t forget to follow us on IG and Twitter @HoughLovesLuna 🙂

Living and Learning

This week has been all about living and learning with a new dog. Luna is amazing, has great skills and does really well training with me.  HOWEVER, just because she went through training doesn't mean she gets to skip her delightful teenage puppy years.  :)  This means she still gets a little too excited and jumps up at you to say hi and she will still chew on just about anything if you let her, oh and she LOVES to ignore you if she's had enough treats to satisfy her tummy.  So, I've been learning along side her the ways of raising a new puppyish dog and how to make this major life adjustment together.

Lessons I've Learned This Week:

  1. Don't give Luna a bowl of ice to cool down unless you want her to find more enjoyment over eating the bowl than the ice.  Lesson learned.
  2. I worry about Luna as much as my own kids when she is sick!  She had a stomach bug and we had to take her to the vet on Sunday to get her feeling better.  I get so anxious when she isn't feeling well.  Still working on this lesson.
  3. Know what you want when you take her to the groomers.  I wasn't very specific, as I have never had to get a dog groomed, and they shaved her down.  We can just say she is really able to cool off now but she's probably feeling like I did in my 3rd grade picture that still haunts me to this day.  :(  Lesson definitely learned and no pictures posted due to her request for privacy. 😉
  4. Squirrels, rabbits, birds and bees are way more interesting than listening to me.  We are working on it!

Those are the major lessons from lately.  Other than that she's been great at her training when we are at Hough and she has LOVED getting to know some of the Kindergarteners.  We will be doing a little morning meeting on Friday with them so we are both really looking forward to that.

Until then,

Mrs. Cantwell

Meet Luna

Teachers are often inspired by their students.  It’s what keeps us going on the hard days.  Most of the time we have a couple of students, current or previous, that stay with us and are the reason we come to work every day.  Being a special education teacher means that I get to work with kids for many years, sometimes up to 6 years in a row.  I have had what I call my “epiphanies” twice in my teaching career.  These are ideas that shake me to my core and make me take action faster and more furiously than usual. When epiphanies strike I can’t seem to help myself and I go full steam ahead, it’s nearly impossible to slow me down, just ask my co-workers.

My first epiphay happened about 7 years ago when the first iPad came out that had an app that would allow my students at the time to communicate.  The kids I was working with were non-verbal and we were using velcro and picture cards so this was a HUGE improvement and really cutting edge to say the least.  I was ecstatic and relentless.  I wrote a $25,000 grant and was given iPads and the app, Proloquo2Go, for every student in my program ages K-21.  It changed everything and is still one of my biggest accomplishments of my career.

My second epiphany happened in February 2017. I was reading a persuasive piece by one of my students who HATES writing with a searing passion. She put together all the reasons why dogs make the best pet. This girl is a fearful, angry, “walls-up-all-the-time” kind of girl. I’ve worked with her for two years and she still snarls at me when I say good morning with my cheery disposition. Despite her best efforts, she hasn’t been able to shake me off yet.  But, she wrote a piece about a dog bringing joy, happiness and comfort. I honestly didn’t think she knew what these three feelings were. I was so moved and so proud and it was so persuasive I wanted to get her a dog right then and there. Later that day I was attempting to calm down another one of my students who was enraged and frustrated and screaming in fury. This little 9 year old had his dad walk out of his life and take their family dog with him. He was irate and confused as to why he couldn’t see his dad or his dog anymore. Again, with a bleeding heart, I wanted to have his dog at school with us right then to bring him comfort. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks…..Hough needs a therapy dog!!

Most principals would look at a teacher of theirs who just busted through their door and yelled “Steve, can we PLEASE get Hough a therapy dog?????!!!!!!” like they were a crazy person.  However, because my principal knows me so well and knows that once I get an idea I go full steam ahead, he was more polite and agreed to look into it.  He really is the best in the business, I can’t tell you how many times he has humored me.  It was a crazy day, like every other day at Hough, but he said lets see! We looked at the district policies that day and he made a few phone calls immediately to other schools that have teachers who I had heard brought their dogs to school.  By the next day we had looked at everything and it looked like it was totally doable!  I spent that weekend researching everything I could and getting information on how to find a good company, what it would cost, how long it would take and any other details I could find. Turns out there was some great research about successfully implementing a therapy dog into schools and the benefits are super impressive. I compiled the information and research then created a proposal to the Hough Foundation for funding. On February 24th, 2017, three weeks after my inspiration, the board approved my proposal. We were getting a therapy dog for Hough Elementary School!!

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Teddybear Goldendoodles found us our sweet baby girl Suzie Q White by looking at temperaments and meeting our needs for a school setting.  The next step was to name this sweet love.  I figured if I would be in charge of cleaning up after her I would have to have some say in what we named her so I gave the school 4 options and the entire school voted on her name.  My name inspirations came from my all time favorite book series, Harry Potter.  The students were able to choose from: Luna, Tonks, Ruby or Poppy.  Luna won by a landslide so we have sweet Luna as our newest addition to the Hough Hawks.

Luna has been going through the DoodlePrep training school for the past 16 weeks. It’s been amazing to watch her grow every week in her training videos. The students at school were given the opportunity to watch Luna in training on a weekly basis to see her grow and how the trainer has worked with her.  Everyday I get asked questions about her favorite toy, where she likes to play, does she like to cuddle, WHEN IS SHE COMING!!!???IMG_6129

We are hoping to be able to share Luna’s journey with our Hough community through this blog along with Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. She is going to create such an incredible culture at Hough. I can’t wait to welcome Luna to Vancouver, WA on July 7th. More to come after she arrives so hold tight!!

 

Mrs. Cantwell