I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me they are the role model for being alive. — Gilda Radner
I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul. — Jean Cocteau
Teachers are, by their very nature, caring and compassionate. For many, those traits extend to their four-legged children, as well. Whether you are a lover of cats, a lover of dogs, or a lover of some other animal that captures your heart, there is no denying that pets can quickly become family.
You can also learn a lot about your students by how they get along with pets. There are those who firmly believe in class pets and others who either cannot or do not want to have them in the classroom. For those who would like a class pet, but cannot have one due to school or district regulations, there are still options available. Why are class pets important? Well, they teach us a lot about compassion and acceptance; two traits that all students need to have developed and encouraged.
Compassion and Acceptance with a Class Pet
Stuffed animals are the perfect read-to buddy for struggling or budding readers. A stuffed puppy dog or even a fuzzy lamb can give comfort and lend a non-judgmental ear as the student reads aloud. Think about including one or more stuffed animals in your library center this year. You might also try this 5-minute class pet. Tip: Be sure the stuffed animal is easily washable, as you will want to toss it in the washer at least once a week.
Instead of a puppy for your classroom, adopt a virtual puppy from one of the online sites that let you and your students create a pet. While some sites are very realistic (i.e. – Foopets), they also usually come with a price. Others may be less realistic looking, but your class can adopt a pet dragon or creature from someplace like Neopets for free. It is a great way to build a community spirit within the classroom without the fuss and mess of a real pet.
Meet My Pet
Encourage one student each week to bring in photos, a short video, and information about a pet that they may have at home. That pet becomes the “Pet of the Week” and the student gets to talk about how he cares for his pet and some of the needs the pet has. If students do not have pets, encourage them to bring in a favorite stuffed animal that they care of at home.
Let students get a glimpse into your personal life by talking about your own cat or dog during class. By modeling a love for animals and a compassion for them, you are quietly encouraging your students to do the same.