Thursday, April 24, 2014

TAGteacher Tale: Helping Animal Shelter Volunteers Have a Great Experience

By Marissa Marino

Volunteers are one of my favorite parts about working for animal welfare non-profits. The community that is generated for a single mission can sometimes be astounding. There are a variety of reasons why people engage in volunteer activities. Some people volunteer to give back to their community, others volunteer since they cannot have pets of their own and others hope to develop friendships along the way. One common thread I see is people longing to learn new things and expand themselves.  So let’s give them what they want! My philosophy is to empower volunteers through education in order to develop a dedicated and helpful team for the staff as well as the animals.

For the last 3 years, I directed the behavior and training department at the East Bay SPCA in Oakland & Dublin, CA.  During that time I developed nine volunteer programs to help support our canine and feline populations. A  few of these programs focused on canine and feline enrichment, assisting dog training classes, canine jogging and exercise as well as canine behavior modification. 

Creating Educational Materials

In order to develop these programs I had to create educational materials as well as hands on training curriculum. There were many skills the volunteers needed to learn in order to safely interact with our animals.  Some of these skills included what to do when an animal mouths you, exiting and entering the kennel as well as offering an animal space and time if they appear fearful. I have found that breaking things down into small steps for volunteers can be most helpful when teaching a new skill. I used the principles of TAGteach in order to help each learner absorb the information and develop the necessary handling skills. 

Developing Your Own Trainings 

In my upcoming webinar, I will discuss handling skills all volunteers should know when working with animals. I will also showcase videos demonstrating volunteers learning these and other skills.  Since every shelter is different, it is important for you to take the knowledge you learn from this webinar and be able to apply it to your facility. Therefore, I will discuss how to develop TAGteach trainings for your own volunteers so you can all reap the benefits of this way of teaching.  


We hope you will join us on May 6th, 2014 for a fun and exciting webinar with Marissa!         

Click here for more information or to register.


In celebration of its International Dog Bite Prevention Challenge, non-profit Doggone Safe will donate a Shelter Family Safety Kit in a random draw to one attendee at the end of this webinar. This kit contains materials to help educate the families that visit the shelter about how to treat pets with respect, read dog body language and prevent dog bites. The retail value of this kit is over $300 and it contains:

1 Be a Tree Teacher Kit (contains 15 large heavy weight dog body language posters and more)
50 Coloring Books
20 Story Books
2 Posters
500 stickers

Anyone with a shipping address in the US or Canada who registers for the webinar will be eligible for the draw. So even if you can't attend, register anyway! You will automatically receive the recording when it is available.

To find out more about the contents of the Shelter Family Safety Kit, visit the Doggone Safe store.

BONUS#2! When you register for this webinar you will receive a discount code for 25% off our recorded webinar: TAG! Not Just Another Game at Camp. If your shelter runs summer camps for kids, this webinar will give you lots of great ideas for fostering cooperation and fun for your campers

BONUS #3! When you register for this webinar you will receive a discount code for 25% off our recorded webinar: Leave it! Impulse Control for the Teacher with TAGteach cofounder Theresa McKeon, since this is a great complement to this webinar for training shelter volunteers.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

TAGteacher Tale: Junior Scholars Love TAGteach

By Sarah Cook

After many happy years as a teacher at A Dancer’s Dream, I recently branched out into the world of public education, accepting a position as a full time dance teacher in a charter School network in Boston, MA. For those unfamiliar with A Dancer’s Dream, it is a wonderful studio where every teacher is TAGteach certified and the children are very tag savvy. This particular charter school network is a high performing K-8 charter school with 3 campuses. The schools are academically rigorous, have a very strict behavior policy, and are huge on positive reinforcement and behavior narration.  They also have every student take dance. The dance classes are large, with 27-32 students per class.  Needless to say, I have my hands full.

After a year and a half of struggling with huge classes, no mirrors, and less than perfect dance ‘studio’ conditions, I asked my principal if I could start using TAGteach. She said yes and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I could finally introduce TAGteach and the audible marker to all my classes.  Below are a few highlights from our first week using TAGteach.

Sixth grade:  We are well into our tap unit. With 27 kids in class, it’s challenging to see and correct the mistakes of every child.  How do you solve problems like too many kids, not enough time? With TAGteach, of course! After watching the entire class attempt flaps (a tap skill) and making a mental note of the most common errors, I chose one student to start the process.  I explained what a tag meant and how it helps your body and brain learn.  In less than two minutes and with only two tag points, his flaps were fixed. Not only did it fix his flaps, but everyone in the class vastly improved after watching the TAGteach session. They were thrilled and just a little amazed. I was just reminded of the effectiveness of TAGteach
First grade:  There are 32 children in this class (THIRTY-TWO CHILDREN!!) In an effort to streamline my classes, I decided to start using TAGteach to work on class management first. As the class began, I kept an eye out for the first scholar who quietly sat down in crisscross. Without saying a word, I tagged him and voila!  The room went from chaos to silence in 3 tags. It was so easy, They figured out right away that if they didn't get a tag, they could look at a friend who did get tagged and fix their behavior to match. My entire class was silent, ready to go without redirection from me and in less than a minute. One scholar told me “I like the tagger because when you tag one person, we all know what to do without you talking and wasting our learning time”.  Right on, kid - me too.

I am so excited to have brought this tool to my school. We accomplish more in less time, our practice is more deliberate, and everyone is happier. I know it makes helps me stay calm and focused. 

Now, someone remind me why I hadn't done this before…? Stayed tuned for more Adventures of Tagging in the classroom!