Don’t get me wrong. I am one of those people who let their dog off the leash, despite the posted warnings demanding that all dogs be tethered to their owners. In fact, I am adamantly opposed to the concept of a leash law. Serious – and yes, I’m on my soap box here – I would like to know which is better: my dog who, though not wearing a leash, will come when called and walk at a heel when asked, or the yappy Pomeranian (nothing against Pomeranians, but they tend to be yappy) who gets whip-lashed by its owner because it lunged to the end of its extendo-leash to try to maul me and my aforementioned heeling pup? Tell me how the leash law helps in that case? It’s those people whose dogs don’t come when called, hump everything in sight, and pee on baby strollers that get the rest of us in trouble. I prefer the sign posted in Middletown that states, “All dogs must be under positive control.” In other words, whip-lashing your attacking dog does not count even though a piece of line is attached to its neck.
As the new school year begins, I have been thinking a lot about classroom management in much the same way as leash laws. Tethering a student to a filter, or forbidding the freedom to use mobile technology, or outlawing laptops/tablets/iPods/etc., is really no better than jerking a student around by their neck just because they go where natural instinct takes them. However, I don’t just let my dogs run. First, I set clear expectations and provide consistent guidance. If they do something wrong, then I correct the negative behavior. Because my dog understands boundaries, she gets the freedom to run.
As educators embark on a new year with new technology, I would encourage them to try the same strategy with students – provide boundaries, correct negative behavior early, set clear expectations, and then let them run.