The way you can measure a society’s soul is by the way that it treats its children.
Issue No. 59 – 16th June 2008
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23-24 August ECCPA (Early Childhood Conference of Performing Arts) Conference Melbourne. For details and registration go to www.vosa.org.
I like cats; they’re my favourite pet. I have had cats in my life ever since I can remember. My childhood cats were Impsy, a small black cat my Mum thought was impish in her behaviour, then there was Torty the Persian tortoiseshell with beautiful soft fur and languorous behaviour; sensuality on four legs. Finally was Timmy the tabby, who spent most of his time charging around and shinnying up trees as boys do, whether feline or human. We had other pets too including dogs, mice and birds. I distinctly remember nursing a sickly kitten, keeping it in my doll’s pram and feeding it milk with my toy baby bottle. I used to bring the mother in to feed it too. I think it was one of Torty’s. The cats were my friends and I played with them often. I never understood why they didn’t want to be pushed along in the pram or wear bonnets. The dogs wouldn’t co-operate with this either. It was not surprising that when I had children of my own that our house was full of even more pets, including cats, of course, than I had as a child. Nowadays with my children grown up and me travelling so often, I am unable to have a cat, or any pet for that matter. This will all change one day.
Why I mention this is that I believe a childhood is not complete without pets. A child needs to learn to care for an animal, to respect the animal and in turn, be loved by that animal. It is interesting that old age has a lot in common with early childhood in that it is the simple pleasures in life that are the most valued, such as having a pet to love and be loved by. (Think of the nursing homes that ensure there are a few resident cats and a dog and often an aviary too.) In between times our lives are so full of ‘busy-ness’ that we tend to forget these things.
Sadly, what I took for granted in my own childhood and that of my children is not necessarily the case for a vast majority of households today. These are people who live in apartments or rented accommodation where pets are not allowed, or the children spend their time in care when not at school or kindergarten so there is no-one at home to be there for the pet, or the parents simply don’t want the added expense or responsibility. Whatever the reason, a pet is very special and quickly becomes part of the family. Without one, I am concerned that children can too easily become self-absorbed.
I know pets at school bring an added burden of responsibility onto the teacher and the assistant, but it is really wonderful for the children because for so many of them it is a unique experience. I am not advocating you allow cats or dogs or anything like that, more’s the pity, but imagine silkworms hatching out and spinning their cocoons ‘ a wonderful science study looking at life-cycles. Or have earthworms in thin glass boxes with layers of different coloured soil so you can see the earthworms at work and notice what happens to the layers of coloured soil. Or have mice or guinea pigs or rabbits or fish or even tadpoles. These animals are not difficult to keep and the children love taking them home at weekends and term ends. Dare I suggest birds? They make fabulous pets. A canary that sings all day is a joy and a talking parrot is simply hilarious. Even chickens hatching out of eggs is a fabulous thing for children to observe. You can organise this through a local hatchery and take them for just a few weeks.
I could be getting carried away, but you get the idea. The various books and stories on ‘Pet Day at School’ (I have even written one), attest to the sorts of mishaps that can occur; however, I maintain a pet in the classroom, no matter how small, is a joy for all the children. Those from other classrooms will want to visit often. The learning involved is enormous ‘ social, emotional (care for the pet, attachment, feelings of sadness if it dies etc), certainly science, especially looking at life cycles and behaviour, are all there. You could include numeracy if you’re counting the eggs hatching etc. Language is involved as they describe (and write?) and draw what’s happening.
Don’t let the children in your care miss out on this vital part of their emotional well-being. Take a poll today and find out who has a pet at home, what type it is and how they feel about their pet. You may be surprised what you find. Finally, if you’re brave, suggest a pet to have in the classroom. Choose one that you know you would quite like to have there. Know that you are going above and beyond the call of duty but isn’t that what teaching’s all about?
Quotes of the Week
‘There are people who reshape the world by force or argument but the cat just lies there, dozing, and the world quietly reshapes itself to suit his comfort and convenience.’ Source Unknown
Cat’s motto: ‘No matter what you’ve done wrong, always try to make it look like the dog did it.’ Source Unknown
‘A cat is a regency gentleman–elegant of pose, exquisite of manner, with spotless linen and an enthusiasm for bare knuckle fights, rampaging love affairs, duels by moonlight and the singing of glees. He expects immaculate service from his domestic staff, and possesses a range of invective that would make a navy blanch.’ Pam Brown
Some comments from the recent PD at Curtin Uni ‘
What would you tell others about this presentation?
‘That it is worth seeing. There were some great ideas.’
‘It was an opportunity to see a range of resources.’
‘It was an excellent presentation.’
‘Very beneficial and fun.’
‘It was great! Fantastic ideas!’
‘Good music and a lovely lady.’
‘That finger plays and songs can be used to encourage learning in all ages.’
About The Author
Marlene Rattigan B.A., Dip. Ed. (ECS), CELTA
Marlene Rattigan is an Early Childhood teacher, a teacher of English as a Second Language, and from 1987-2000 was a nationally accredited fitness leader. Her background is in music education. A keen interest in motor development in children led to the creation of Kidz-Fiz-Biz which she taught successfully for 13 years. Marlene also conducts workshops for children, teachers and parents at schools, in the community and at festivals. She has produced teaching manuals complete with audio CDs which are an extension of her ‘Kidz-Fiz-Biz’ program.
PO Box 6894, East Perth WA 6892, Australia
T: +61 8 9325 1204 M: +61 (0) 410 64 2781 E: email@example.com
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Until next time – continue being a legend in your classroom.
Marlene Rattigan, Editor
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