Classroom Perspectives, Professional Development

Teaching Style: Are you a Cat or Dog?

Teaching Style: Are you a Cat or Dog?

By Tina Bacolas

One of the best viral YouTube sensations I’ve caught in the past few years titled, “The Difference Between Cats and Dogs” features a Golden Retriever and its puppy. The puppy stands at the top of a flight of stairs, looking down the seemingly endless slope, not knowing what to do. The parent dog proceeds to walk up and down the stairs relentlessly demonstrating the task. Mom even pauses occasionally, nudging the pup that backtracks a step or two to the landing. After some time, the pup finally makes his way down the stairs guided every single step by mom’s gentle nose. The video then shows a kitten at the top of some basement steps that looks cautiously over the edge, and then to his mother and back at the flight again. He nervously takes a single paw and places it on the first step, only to be shoved from behind by mom’s paw. This results in the kitten tumbling loudly down the stairs.

While this video has nothing to with education, it has everything to do with the student-centered learning I saw taking place in a high school science class. On this particular day, these junior and senior physics students were learning about the relationship between force and acceleration. After a very minimal background lesson was disseminated, the teacher pointed out an array of lab equipment available to the students and instructed the lab groups to design an experiment to test this relationship (force and acceleration). No worksheet. No materials list. No lab procedure. Just a goal.

While the students did not look quite as bemused as myself, it was obvious after a few minutes that they were frustrated. Some time passed and ideas began to flow. Students talked about distance of toy cars and stopwatches. They drew diagrams and talked openly, pointing out the need to control certain variables. The conversation was amazing. Being a science person myself, I could tell some of the experiment ideas were way off. However, the conversation was completely focused. The students were problem solving. They were compromising with group mates and considering multiple ideas in a collaborative solution. While the stumped groups received guided questioning from the circling instructor, groups on the right track received encouraging words.

You see, this teacher is a cat—and, while I am by no means suggesting pushing students down a flight of stairs—this teacher set up a finish line for them and let them grapple. Her student-centered lesson ended in more than just a physics lesson. Student social interactions and critical thinking skills were piqued while they struggled through the task. Far too many teachers are Golden Retrievers. It is so difficult for educators, to let go of traditional methods and handholding. We need to understand, however, that our puppies are getting to the bottom of the stairs, while the kittens are arriving with a greater skill base and a deeper learning experience.

Now a school administrator, I spend a great deal of time in classrooms watching and, I am fortunate in this. I have the honor of personally gathering a large sampling of data—what is working? What is not working? How are our students thinking? How are they learning?

As a 1:1 laptop district, I will say this: the laptops are a go-to. Students find a word they don’t know in a text in English class… they open their laptops. They argue about a historical fact or event… they open their laptops. They want to see what’s #trending in the news… they open their laptops. The truth of the matter is, our students are in a world (and will soon enter a workplace) where technology will be at their fingertips… 24 hours a day. The excitement that used to follow, “Okay, class, we are going to the computer lab” is long gone. A wealth of information sits in a black canvas case and contains a streamlined silver Apple. Is it really important anymore for students to learn traditionally when glossaries are becoming extinct?

Our students can access billions of webpages, blogs, and databases with ease. Now, what they do with that information is the important part. Can they assemble facts from various sources to form a well-rounded argument? Can they involve multiple opinions and viewpoints when solving a problem? Do they know how to properly gather credible sources? These are the skills that they will need for life. For their careers. For their (and our) futures. Are we designing lessons that will foster these skills? And as an administrator, how can I design PD to help my teachers make this transition?

I am not suggesting the content of our traditional classrooms go by the wayside. I am simply suggesting that our delivery should encourage more thought-provoking conversation (which is, consequently, also my strongest argument against virtual schooling).

In a recent professional development session where I took on the role of the mother cat, I told my staff they had just 45 minutes in groups of four to grapple with the task below:


The immediate reaction was to open their laptops and begin searching. What endangered species (if any) live in this area? What is the average cost of building a bridge? What soil textures are conducive to tunnel excavation? And so on… the conversation was argumentative and the fact comparing was aggressive. This time span flew by and, when I asked the groups to present me with their findings, the results were varied (mostly bridges, but some dams and tunnels throughout). However, the consistency in the room brought new-found knowledge of Oregon’s freshwater wildlife, (including the endangered salmon in the river), fiscal undertakings of several transportation options, environmental impacts dams have on canal wildlife and the visual aesthetic opinions of one’s colleagues. All without me saying a word.

The problem was authentic. Interdisciplinary. It asked my teachers to do more than just listen and write. They were forced to listen, research and compromise. With this activity, my hope was to open the minds of my staff to new methods, by example, to focus on a goal. The level of facilitation and structure will vary by group and age of students. It is also essential that if teachers are going to provide their students with the resources, they are credible and age appropriate. My library media specialist has been a wonderful training support in this area.

Either way, innovative examples and consistent encouragement is a necessary component in promoting change in fundamental lesson design. We may all integrate cat-like lessons into our curriculum and classrooms.

Previously a high school Biology teacher, Tina is currently a Technology Coach and Supervisor of Instructional Technology in Park Ridge, NJ, where she hopes to continually improve the 1:1 MacBook program in the district. While her main focus is effective technology integration strategies, her love of curriculum and instruction shows in her work in the school’s professional development committee.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


what do cbd gummies without thc do best cbd gummies no corn syrup green wellness cbd gummies provost utah how much is a pack of cbd gummies cbd gummies at whole foods does cbd gummies do anything pure kana cbd gummies review buy cbd gummies mn what happens if you eat too much cbd gummies cbd oil what is it good for hempworx cbd 180 infused gummies cbd gummies muscle soreness green hornet gummies cbd cbd oil dosage for crohn s disease recipe cbd gummies relax cbd gummies review cbd oil dosage for shingles how much cbd can i have per day gummies lab tested cbd oil for sale cbd gummies colorful packaging cbd cream for acne are cbd gummies pegal in nj

3d bee birthday card sd card causes another rive to pop up 3d christmas cards tcraft how to make a t rex pop up card never play cards with a man called pop how to make cherry blossom pop up card how to make a sammantha pop up card 3d pop up custom cards cute pop up card tutorial popup cards philadelphia diy pop up snowman christmas card weird 1000 dollar amazon gift card pop up iphone cricut pop up christmas card pop up childrens card how to pop up valentine card free architecture pop up card templates name pop up card templates twist pop up card how to thinking of you pop up card pop up card templste easter greeting cards make pop up birthday card

non caffeinated diet pills names of over the counter diet pills japan rapid weight loss diet pills colors diet pills with caffeine headache what is the best mens weight loss pills omega cut vs alli diet pills best weight loss pills on amazon for women lose weight really fast pills brown oval black dots weight loss pills 2 top diet pills osmyrin ex nfl player whos on diet pills commercials what is the difference in all keto pills do bliss diet pills contain ephedrine what is new on the diet pills apple cider vinegar pills diet pills will diet pills work without exercise diet pills banned in 80s gutbusters diet pills ace diet supplement pills amazon diet pills that control appetite safe diet pills for women over 40 tv commersials weight loss pills

vydox male enhancement pills maxoderm pills male enhancement pills on ebay best male enhancement pills gnc reddit dr phil male enhancement pills swag platinum 33k male enhancement pills gnc nitric oxide pills for ed best sex pills 15 days ed pills sex store free male enhancement pills free shipping best walmart store ed pills should i buy penis enlargement pills ginseng energy now pills do penis pills increase your size sex on pain pills addict penis medication can i have unprotected sex during sugar pills red ranger pills sex best pills to take to increase sex drive best sex pills that work extenze plus male enhancement 5 tablets pills to make wife want to have sex