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Animals in Education

Heather is a Primary Teacher from Canada who is currently working in London through Protocol Education. Heather introduces us to Tula, her father's wonderful therapy dog who visits a local library to help children read. Yes, you heard correctly!

Animals in Education

I’m sure at some point in our lives we’ve all developed a soft spot for our cuddly counterparts and companions – especially, when we’re nearing our holidays and the tensions run high with the kids in our classrooms. Indeed, this is the point of the year when we look more adoringly at the creatures who fail to judge and always show excitement and willingness to please, as we rack our brains looking for ways to have our students perform the simple tasks without constant nagging.

Although I am living abroad and thus feel it is unfair for the would-be pet to endure the travel I undergo, I still sometimes get the urge to find some stranger with a dog and befriend them, if only to successfully cuddle their warm and loving dog. Since this would probably be a tad creepy (if nothing more), my mind often wanders across the Atlantic to my own pair of poodles back home – well, my dad’s. I absolutely cannot wait to go back for a visit with tons of tail wagging and admirable puppy eyes to look forward to.

Retirement project

My dad, as a retired teacher himself, has taken it upon himself to train our one dog, Tula. She was his retirement project. Tula has now been qualified as a therapy dog, and passed the exams that allow her to visit retirement homes to visit the elderly. Animals have proven to lower blood pressure in seniors and many other individuals have also witnessed symptoms of mental illness, etc., decrease, and they have further served humans in so many ways – those with disabilities, in detecting drugs, even cancer!

Tula, recently achieved the ‘PASS’ in being trustworthy with kids. So, now that she has had the experience of a bunch of kids running at her, without getting spooked, she can accompany children in the local library so that they can read to her. Yes! The children read to a dog – to Tula! Imagine for a second, all that love and excitement we get when we, personally, encounter an animal (animal lovers unite!) and apply that to the non-discriminate and innocent minds of a child who may struggle with reading and feel a sense of apprehension or even fear?! Perhaps some of you out there who are put off by animals just haven’t had that right experience, or have missed the opportunity to encounter a calm and loving creature that practices more patience than some teachers I know. If you do love animals, then you’re probably aware that sometimes it’s easier to talk to a dog than some people.

Gaining confidence

One thing I found really interesting, was that a mother had registered her 8 month old (obviously not to read), to develop an awareness of animals in a calm environment where the animal could be fully trusted and positive desensitization could occur. Add reading to such encounters, and now reading becomes less anxiety ridden and almost stress-free! I know that I always feel a sense of peace and contentment in the presence of an animal, to have that feeling associated with reading shows this young individual a positive atmosphere and overall sensation in education at such an early age. Sometimes, this may be all you need to get that shy individual reading without a stutter – without those intimidating eyes of peers and enabling the confidence we have all gained at some point – a little earlier in a young one’s life.

Read more about using animals to assist learning here.

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Tags: Heather, Protocol Education, Learning, Teacher, Classroom, Stress, Benefits, Retirement, Animals, Therapy, Canadian Teacher

Category: Australian Teachers

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