Camp has officially started.
If you know me, you know that I probably love dogs more than most humans. I know that I am not alone, especially here in musher country. Today in camp we met Philip Walters, he feels the same exact way as I do about dogs. We have another element in common, we are both teachers. Philip is a middle school band teacher in the Anchorage School District. What I immediately discovered about Philip is he is young, energetic, loves dogs, and best, compares his students to dogs. The quote I loved best that he said about this was, “You know how much I love dogs, so if I compare you to a dog you must be pretty special.”
Philip has been wanting to run the Iditarod for quite some time now. He has been training with sled dogs since 2007. What has been holding him back is his full-time job as a teacher. This year he was finally able to secure time off during the race to be able to run. We now have a full-time teacher, and full-time training Iditarod musher signing up for the race next Saturday. How exciting! Not only does he do all that, he has a wife and a 5-month old son.
You may be wondering how exactly he can compare his students to dogs, well it fits perfect. Philip teaches band, which is a team of students working together and training together to perform their musical selections. Sled dogs are a team working together and training to get to Nome. He even broke it down further. Every classroom has those 2-3 students that know everything and are a tad bit bossy to the rest of the class. Your lead dogs (the first 2 dogs) have to be these bossy dogs, know everything, make sure everyone is doing the correct thing. Swing dogs (directly behind the lead dogs), they are almost up there, but not quite. We all have those students who are almost there, work hard, just not the top of the class. Next, the team dogs (dogs between swing and wheel). All these dogs want to do is run. Philip stated it best when he said these students come to band every day and just want to play songs. They may not go home and practice or go above and beyond to get better, they just play. Team dogs just run. Finally the wheel dogs (directly in front of the sled). These dogs work so hard, are very important to the team, but just are never going to get it. We all have students that work their butts off, are enthusiastic, but just will always get that C. That is o.k. These students are an important part of the classroom. They show us how hard work is so important in life. The wheel dogs are very important or the sled is not going to make that turn.
I thought Philip’s comparison of students to sled dogs was remarkable. It makes perfect sense. I even started thinking about this in my coaching eyes. Every single person (dog) on the team is equally important. We all have different roles on whatever team we belong to. I don’t think one is more important than the other. Without the wheel dogs, the sled doesn’t turn. Without the team dogs, we aren’t going to be as strong. Without the swing dogs, turning will be tough. And without the lead dogs, we may never find the trail. Remind your students, and yourself, that whatever role you play, you are very important to the team.
Follow Philip’s journey to the Iditarod on his Facebook page Running Toward Iditarod.