Why You Should Definitely Convince Your Mom to Buy You a Dog; or, Sherlock, Self-Confidence, and the Science of Stress

Steph Pethick, one of our fearless mentors, is on a mission: 1) to prove that math is FUN (I disagree); and 2) to prove that you can, in fact, justify getting paid to walk your dog if you bring in the scientific research to back you up. 

This is work (allegedly). 

This is work (allegedly). 

Here’s what she had to say about how she brought her dog, Sherlock, into one of her mentoring sessions last year:

I had a very sweet student with some major stress and confidence issues. Having struggled with stress myself, I could definitely relate. One of the ways I decided to try and manage my stress was by getting my dog, Sherlock. After getting him, I really noticed a difference in my stress levels. 

I thought I’d do some research into the science behind this. Was there an actual scientific link between owning a dog and having less stress? Or was I just destined to be a dog lady? 

What I found was that petting a dog can decrease levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and increase levels of oxytocin (the stress-reducing hormone). So, it was true! Being around Sherlock was making me less stressed.

With my new knowledge, I took my stressed-out student for a dog walk with Sherlock near the school last year. Instantly, I saw a difference in my student. He was so chatty, and any self-confidence issues he had shown beforehand went straight out the window. Because he was so focused on playing with Sherlock and throwing Sherlock’s toy, my student was okay with opening up to me about his life. 

I felt that, if we hadn’t done this session, it would have taken me a lot longer to get my student to be as relaxed. Walking Sherlock worked as an ice breaker for us and helped my student to feel more confident and less stressed.

By the end of the year, he was receiving compliments from his teachers on how much he’d changed!

Thank you to Steph (for being an amazing mentor) and to Sherlock (for being so darn cute).

In other news, today, our Director (and resident hole-punch artist) Richard McLauchlan

Richard shows me one of his masterpieces.

Richard shows me one of his masterpieces.

is attending “When Education Becomes Possible,” an event “on the transformative nature of education." Richard and a couple of our students will be there to talk about Light Up Learning and to hear the stories of other education-focused organisations in Scotland. Stop by if you’re in the neighbourhood; or, if you, like me, are marooned on a different continent and unable to attend this wonderful event, check back here in a couple of weeks for Richard’s recap!