In our last post, we told you about teacher Linda Graham and her classroom pet, Carl. Ms. Graham teaches 4th grade boys at Global Leadership Academy in West Philadelphia, PA. We did a little Q&A with her and, since her classroom pet experience has been such a great one, we thought we would share a little more of it with you.
Q. Why did you get a classroom pet?
A. I got a classroom pet to teach compassion and responsibility and to have fun because we are animal lovers.
Q. What was the reaction of your students?
A. The boys were very excited when they found out we were getting a class pet. I let them choose from a tarantula or Bearded Dragon and they chose dragon based solely on the name. I also wanted the dragon since all the research I did said they were friendly, clean, and could be held often.
Q. How has it impacted your classroom/students?
A. There are so many ways Carl has impacted our room. Academically we use him in science (food chains, ecosystems, habitats, animal types). We write about him and use him as the center of our stories. Some of the pictures I attached are different props we pose him with to use as inspiration for our stories. Believe it or not Carl seems to really enjoy it. There are many other times throughout the school year I have been teaching a concept and I refer to him.
He has helped our classroom be more gentle and compassionate. They hold him a few hours a day and take such care and responsibility towards him. They hold him when they read, write, do math, have indoor recess, and any other time they can. They love to feed him and bathe him. We have taken him to our first grade reading buddies to teach them about how to care for animals and to introduce them to reptiles. Our classroom is next to the bathrooms so many teachers and students regularly stop in to say hi, watch him eat some worms, or just check in on him.
One of the most special stories involves a few of the boys that struggle with testing and nervousness during big tests. One student in particular really struggles when having to do the reading and writing portion. He is on grade level and an excellent academic student but he just freezes during testing, at times taking hours to complete one question and becoming frustrated in the process. During a recent mock test I let him hold Carl. The boys usually hold him in their hand, let him clip on to their sweaters, or on the desk. Carl was on his sweater for the first hour. He completed the entire test without one break, checked his work, used strategies and had no stress. It was such a wonderful thing to watch, if he needed a mental break he would just whisper to Carl or just pet him.
He has been such a fun part of our class and I know the boys will be visiting him often next year!
We are grateful for the grant and glad Carl has become a part of our class story!
To learn more about the Pets in the Classroom grant program, visit www.PetsintheClassroom.org.