5. Keep the team quiet
When the dogs start barking and howling in the yard, your anxiety rises, communication falters, and you forget that Nugget is a chewer and before you know he has snipped through your gang line and 7 dogs embark on a sled-less journey through the woods. When middle school boys start yelling and hollering, anxiety rises, communication falters and before you know it Jeffrey has Chris in headlock and Joey is crying in the corner due to all chaos. If you can keep things quiet as a sled dog trainer or as a middle school counselor you’ll avoid a lot of incidents.
4. Keep transitions short
When the dogs are getting hooked up to the gang line, they’re barking, jumping, and chomping at the bit to get going down the trail. The longer it takes to transition from the yard to the trail, the greater the likelihood that one of the dogs will find itself in a messy tangle or fight the dog next to him, just because he is so antsy. The same is true with middle school boys. Put ten of them in line and they are bumping into each other, blowing on the back of each other’s necks, and whispering insults. Get from A to B as quick as possible with both boys and sled dogs and you’ll avoid incidents both in the dog yard and in the school.
3. Have Plans A, B, C (and possibly D) ready to go
Before embarking on a sled dog trip or a field trip with the boys, design a concrete plan, but ask yourself “What is the worst that could happen?” and make a plan for dealing with it. While on the sled dog trail that might be a stray dog tangling your team, your dog team taking you down an unknown trail, or an injury to either you or the dogs. While going on a hiking trip with middle school boys, you might also have to deal with injuries, but more likely your issues will involve Scott refusing to walk to next Sam, Jared wetting his pants, or someone in a tiny cavalier parking in your 16 passenger van on a snowy street and having to entertain your kids for an hour on the side of the road.
2. Recognize that everything isn’t your fault
Sometimes things are just not going to go your way on the dog sled trail or with middle school boys. Your most trusted lead dog will sometimes go right when you commanded left, you might lose your favorite mitten on the trail when your calmest dog snaps at you while you’re untangling her, and the weather might just be awful. With middle school boys, they might hate that lesson plan you spent 10 hours on, they might insult the Vikings, and they definitely will not go to sleep when you want them to. Some things are just outside of your control and you have to be okay with that if you are going to keep yourself sane.
1. Find your leader
A good lead dog team can make or break your team, just like a good student leader can make and break your team of middle school boys. If your lead dog always goes left when you say “haw” and right when you say “gee” your team is golden. If your lead student always does whatever you say, then chances are you’ve picked an idiot to be your leader. A good student leader will often question what you say. Listen to him. Teach this student how to lead to with his ears and not his mouth and your team will be golden. Insist that things always be done “your way” and plan on trying to squash a mini rebellion that your highest IQ student will initiate when he is denied an opportunity to complete chores in a different order.