Approaching Your Local School
After a teacher has agreed to a presentation, make an appointment to discuss your upcoming visit. This appointment can be made as soon as the teacher accepts your offer to visit and should be held after school hours in the classroom or assembly room you will be using. Be sure to invite anyone who will be assisting you.
At this meeting, you can become acquainted with your working surroundings. If you are planning to include a dog in your program, you may want to bring the dog with you to this meeting so it can also become familiar with the surroundings. This will also allow the teacher to meet the dog in advance.
If a face-to-face visit is not possible, you should send a printed outline or script to the teacher for his/her review at least one week before your visit. Include a supply list. If you plan on showing the Best Friends or safety video, remember to ask for a TV/VCR unit. If you plan to visit with your dog, be sure to ask if any of the children have allergies or a fear of dogs. Arrangements may have to be made to excuse these children from your presentation. Be sure to discuss these issues with the teacher so that there are no complications on the day of the presentation.
You may want to provide printed materials (see the Resources section) for each student. Remember to ask the teacher how many children are in each class. Make sure the teacher will handle discipline problems if the children become excited.
When you visit the classroom you should be thinking about how much space you have to work with, as well as what visuals you may want to use. Is there a chalkboard, bulletin board, a table or other equipment that you can use? If you make the arrangements by phone, ask the teacher to describe how the room is set up.
Two to three days in advance, call the teacher to check that everything is going as planned, and review your presentation. Be sure your presentation fits into the time granted to you by the school. On the day of the presentation, you can ask the teacher to signal you when there are only 5 to 10 minutes left, so you can wrap things up and end on time.
Preparing Your Presentation
The Day of the Presentation
If you haven't already visited the school, make sure you have clear directions and give yourself ample time to get there. Make sure any assistants you have are also well prepared and able to get there on time. If you are driving, be sure to ask whether there is a certain area in which you should park.
Leave yourself enough time to calmly set up your room and make that last trip to the restroom before you get started. If you have your dog with you, now might be a good time to take him for a short walk or reacquaint him with the area.
Begin your presentation by greeting the children warmly, telling them your name and the reason for your visit. You may want to have your dog wait outside the room at first (accompanied by a volunteer) or in his crate at the front of the room so the children can concentrate on what you are saying without being distracted. Once you have gone over the proper way to greet a dog, you can introduce him to the children.
When your program is under way, be sure to involve the children by asking for their input, and always respect their comments. A point you think obvious or inconsequential might be a whole new concept for a particular child.
If a child offers an incorrect answer or falters midway through an answer, respond by saying "Yes, and would someone else like to add to that point?" or "That's true, and what about...?" Never respond with a blunt "Wrong!" or you risk intimidating that child and dampening class enthusiasm.
With younger kids, it may be best to wait until the end of your presentation to open it up for questions, because often a youngster's question (or answer) turns into a complicated story that can go off on a tangent. (Ask the teacher to help get you back on track if this happens.)
If you've brought your dog to the presentation, keep in mind that it is always a good idea to go over the basic points on approaching a dog (ask the owner's permission; let the dog sniff the back of your hand; pet the dog gently under the chin...) before you allow the children to come up – in an orderly fashion – to meet your dog.
At the end of your presentation, thank the students for paying attention, and thank the teacher for inviting you to visit the class.
The most important thing to remember: HAVE FUN! Your enthusiasm and love of purebred dogs will be evident, and the children will eagerly follow your lead.
The AKC would love to hear about your experiences in the classroom. We will gladly share your tips and anecdotes with the entire Canine Ambassador network. Forward your comments to:
AKC Public Education
8051 Arco Corporate Drive, Suite 100
Raleigh, NC 27617-3390