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Getting Started: Stories from a New Partnership (Part 2)

Stephanie’s Story

What Carol says is true…I always wanted therapy dogs in my classroom! I used to teach in a zoo, and I have always had pets in my classroom. I was so happy when Carol, Violet, and Tex were assigned to my class.

I have always strongly believed that we can learn a lot from animals. Animals help to teach students responsibility, empathy, understanding, and since my turtle walks freely around the classroom, it also teaches them to be aware of their surroundings!

A big part of my school year is spent studying dogs. We read novels about them, we learn about therapy and service dogs, and we follow the Iditarod sled dog race across Alaska. It seemed only fitting that I have therapy dogs visit my classroom.

I teach a typical 4th grade class that also includes students that require learning support. It really has been amazing to watch the kids with Violet and Tex—especially the ones that weren’t too enthusiastic about having the dogs in to visit!

One boy in particular would never fail to mention that he prefers cats. He would ask if cats would be coming in, why we didn’t have cats visiting, and he always kept his distance when Violet or Tex would come in. Fast forward to this past week—the same boy now jumped up and ran to the door to give Tex a pet before he left!

The dogs have really transformed our class. There are always a core group of students who choose to read with the dogs. Some of them are great readers, and some of them are not, but they all get wonderful practice with reading fluency. Violet or Tex quietly listen and never correct them or judge them! The only thing they ask of the students is belly rubs. Especially Tex—he is never shy about sprawling out on the rug!

Tex especially has provided some great lessons for our class. The kids know that it is his first experience as a therapy dog, so they are understanding and patient with him. If he barks or gets scared, they know to comfort him or to let him know that everything is ok. They are also more mindful of things that might make him surprised or nervous.  It has become a great teaching/learning experience for the kids! Carol has been very open to new ideas and is always up for trying new things. She has been amazingly flexible with my crazy schedule. Our first year together is flying by, but I hope to try and incorporate the dogs into even more lessons next year. I feel so lucky to have Carol, Violet, and Tex as part of my team!