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NESD Curriculum Corner
News Item

We Love Lucy - Our Canine Staff Initiative

July 09, 2015
It all started with Melissa, our K teacher, trying to find a way to better explain needs and wants to her kindergarten students.  They were struggling with the concept and Melissa thought that bringing Lucy (Melissa’s Poodle Cross Dog) would help to reinforce through exploration of Lucy’s needs and wants.  What was intended to be a short stay has become an long term, permanent situation.  Lucy has become an integral part of her classroom climate for a number of reasons. 

Lucy noticeably brings the energy of the room to a manageable level and will actually gravitate to students who require her support in that way.  Recently at an awards day celebration, a student was struggling with behavior.  Lucy, on her own, gravitated to the student and sat on his lap.  This immediately brought the students energy down and focused his attention so that they were able to remain seated with the class.  Without Lucy, there is no doubt this student would have had to be removed to another location.  The effect extended beyond the student.  Lucy was not a distraction, but rather created focus on all the students immediately around her.

Lucy has taught her students the lesson of gentle touch and empathy.  A parent of one of our K students expressed concern in that her son occasionally hurt animals.  We have several photographs of this student feeding and caring for Lucy as well as sitting quietly and petting her.  A great photo has Lucy lying on her bed and the student sitting with her and practicing gentle touch.

Lucy provides comfort to her students in a way that no other teacher could.  When students are feeling sad or when their engine is running low, Lucy will move to them, either on her own or with prompting, and sit with them or on their lap.  The students mood will noticeably shift and perk up to the place where they are ready for instruction.  Lucy is at a place where she can provide this service with minimal supervision, which allows the teacher to continue with other students, yet still attending to the emotional needs of those who need it.

Lucy teaches her students to put others before themselves.  When the students notice that Lucy is sleeping, the classroom gets very quiet and the students find activities to do that will not interrupt Lucy’s sleep.  They have learned that occasionally we have to consider the needs and wants of others prior to our own.

Lucy teaches her students personal space and empathetic awareness.  When Lucy needs her own space, she communicates this through body language signals or occasionally auditory signals.  The students have learned these signals and pick up on them very quickly.  They never question why Lucy needs space but give her the space she needs and understand that when she is ready, she will come to them.

Lucy teaches her students many things and has become a deeply embedded component of her learning environment.  Lucy serves a role in the classroom that no EA or teacher could fill in terms of her ability to get into the students’ personal space when they need it.

What began as a simple lesson on needs and wants, became a lesson in the power of animals in a learning environment.  Lucy’s role  went well beyond the role that the lizards or salamanders play in the science lab or the role a class hamster may play.  Lucy is a teacher, not a pet, she is a caring member of the class not a learning tool.  Lucy will be missed by her students on a level which is comparable to how any other teacher would be missed.

Click here to view Lucy presentation.