Loving To Learn By Learning To Love

Where the Teacher’s Pet Sleeps in a Dog Bed by Elizabeth A Harris, posted in the New York Times tells of dogs who are employed by schools to help students become more emotionally stable.

Ms. Harris writes, “Room 125A at Public School 75 in Manhattan has all the usual trappings of an elementary school classroom. There are low tables and little chairs. There is student work on the wall, covered in crooked, wobbly letters and the occasional rainbow. There is a computer for the teacher and a colorful carpet.

And then there is the dog bed, puffy and yellow with toys burrowed in its crevices. That belongs to Maisy, a friendly beagle-Jack Russell terrier mix, who works at this public school on the Upper West Side.

Maisy is a part of the Comfort Dog program of the Education Department, which pairs certain schools with dogs from the North Shore Animal League America, an animal rescue and adoption organization on Long Island. A staff member at the school adopts a specially screened dog, who is then welcome at the school as a dose of furry emotional support. . .

All the schools use a curriculum called Mutt-i-grees, written by a research scientist at Yale, that structures interactions with the animals around lessons on things like empathy and resilience.”

Having animals in schools has been an age old tool that taught caring, empathy, responsibility and positive behavior. However, health concerns removed animals from public school classrooms with nothing to replace the positive support they offered.

Thankfully we are returning to the understanding that caring for an animal can fulfill a basic emotional need that some children lack in their home environment.

The article continues, “Maisy has a standing appointment with a boy with special needs every eighth period. A beagle named Izzy is sent in to de-escalate tantrums. Jumah is offered as an incentive to encourage good behavior. And Peter Parker, a golden retriever-Border collie mix, lends an ear, without judgment, to students receiving speech therapy.”

Education is learning to live life successfully not about passing a test.

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