Have you ever had a classroom pet that your students help care for? Or maybe your thinking about introducing class pets in your special ed classroom?
Whether you are thinking about adding a furry friend or one with scales, it is important to weigh all of the factors associated with keeping a living animal in the special ed classroom.
Here are some of the top concerns administration and families typically have when class pets are introduced into the classroom setting, straight from the mouths of veteran special education teachers in Mrs. D’s VIP Facebook Group.
5 Things to Consider Before Getting Class Pets
Before rushing out to the pet store to bring home your new class pet, consider the following scenarios and concerns that families and administration might have about a pet in the special ed classroom.
1 – Student Allergies
That furry guinea pig may look adorable at the pet store, but to Jane who has allergies, it may be a nightmare. Before investing in class pets, make sure that you know about all of the allergies your students have. While it’s lovely to care for a pet, the first priority has to be your students’ well-being.
Also to Consider: If you already have a class pet that an incoming student is allergic to, consider where you’ll keep the pet during the school year since the classroom won’t be an option.
2 – Space Available in the Classroom
Where will your new furry or scaled friend live? Different animals need different size enclosures so make sure that your classroom has enough space to house the pet. Ideally, that location will be away from the hustle and bustle of classroom activities and in a quieter, more protected spot.
Also to Consider: Class pets sometimes need access to heat lamps or water pumps. That means the location you select in the classroom needs to be located near an electrical outlet.
3 – Animal Sleep Schedule
Choosing a hamster or guinea pig may seem like a fun idea, but nocturnal animals will need to sleep during the day when class is in session. If your classroom is typically loud and boisterous, a daytime sleeper may end up agitated and stressed. Animals that are stressed are usually not that happy to be handled and may nip or bite when being held.
Also to Consider: Even animals that are awake during the day may find the typical noise of the classroom too much. Make sure you have the ability to cover the class pet’s cage or tank to make them feel safe and dampen the sound of students learning.
4 – Weekends, Vacations, and School Closures
Class pets need care every day so it’s important to have a plan for where the pet will go on the weekends, over extended school vacations, and in the event of school closures. If you are not able to bring the pet home with you, it may not be a great idea to have one in the classroom as it is ultimately your responsibility to care for.
Also to Consider: Are any of your family members allergic to the class pet? That could be an issue bringing it home. Also, keep in mind that students’ families may have allergies that prevent them from having the pet in their own homes over the weekend or school holidays.
5 – Time and Cost
Class pets take a lot of work. Even fish tanks need to be cleaned, the water tested, the temperature controlled, and the fish fed. If you don’t have a lot of extra time in your day before or after school, consider whether you want to take on one more responsibility. While it might be nice to have the pet in the classroom to teach students about responsibility, there are plenty of other ways to teach that without having to bring an animal into the mix.
Also to Consider: While the cost of the pet and the necessary supplies may be covered by a grant or donation, there will certainly out of pocket expenses that you will be expected to pay.
Class pets can be a lot of fun, but they will undoubtedly increase your workload. Make sure that you consider all options and all of the responsibility that comes with a class pet before investing in one. It could be a multi-year commitment!