Middle of the Pack

Alone at the dog park, Emmett becomes thoughtful.

Recently, I’ve been spending many of my afternoons at the dog park. My backyard is not fenced in and though I love to take my 6-month-old hound dog on long walks, his young mind also needs a more playful outlet. At the dog park Emmett gets to play with all sorts dogs: tall dogs like the Great Dane, small dogs like the Dachshund, dogs who love to run fast, dogs who love to catch Frisbees, dogs who stand near the fence and watch squirrels, and even grumpy dogs who just want to relax on the bench with their humans. In his own time, Emmett has tried out all of these activities, but he has never been as fast as the fast dogs, he has never understood the point of fetching, and the squirrels never seem to mind his barking.

For months Emmett played comfortably in the middle of the pack, never shining with any bright ability. Until one afternoon I noticed he had ventured to the far end of the dog park, nose glued to the ground as he trotted around the perimeter of the fence. The more I looked for this behavior the more often I saw it; nose down, tail wagging, as the little dog sniffed the ground in search for treasures. And Emmett always seemed entranced by whatever wonderful mysteries he smelled.

Soon, Emmett was finding all sorts of things on our walks. He could sniff out a new chipmunk hole in seconds, fallen crabapples and walnuts buried under the soft ground were easily unearthed, and even our family of backyard rabbits could not hide from his nose. Emmett relishes in finding new things and I am glad to have a happy dog with a talent that gives him purpose.

I feel all students also have hidden talents just waiting to be discovered. Being a teacher really means helping those kids in the middle of the pack discover what makes them special. Once we help those students find that special ability we can help them hone in and develop that talent until they relish in all of their accomplishments. Students who are proud of their work are happy students with a purpose.

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Nina Chamberlain serves Trinity School as an Associate Art teacher.  You can follow her on Twitter @MakeSomeArt

4 thoughts on “Middle of the Pack

  1. Nina, This is so true! Thank you for addressing those “kids in the middle of the pack.”
    I recently attended a session at the Georgia Art Education Association where a “Creativity Counselor” emphasized the fact that if we don’t find personal meaning in our work then we don’t find purpose or happiness and creative blocks can set in. I look forward to seeing how we can help every student find their purpose and happiness!

  2. I loved your story! It makes me want to spend lots of time observing my children looking for their special talent!

  3. Nina, I love this. I love that you had to watch Emmett and wait to find his “special talent” as we sometimes need to do for our students. Emmett, too, sat back and observed the other dogs before finding his niche. Now that you’ve both discovered it, you can help Emmett nurture his ability. Wow! What a lucky pup to have you caring for him and nurturing him!

  4. Maryellen Berry

    I love the connection that you have made between Emmett and the way in which we can watch students find their strengths and their place. (Emmett is pretty adorable too!)

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