Looking back on our childhood education experiences, it isn’t uncommon to remember having had a classroom pet at one point or another. Stereotypically a hamster, lizard, frog, or guinea pig, these pets provided a novelty that we could observe in our free time and a colorful addition to our classroom identities.

Now, as an educator, you have the opportunity to introduce a pet into your classroom for the benefit of your students. While this certainly presents a fair amount of work for both you and your pupils, it also offers a valuable learning experience and the potential to teach your students about responsibility. Before you begin the process of bringing an animal into your classroom, you may want to consider these tips:

Classroom Management and Pets

It’s important, when you’re thinking about bringing an animal into your classroom, that you take time to carefully consider the ways it will affect the general dynamic between you and your students. Specifically, you’ll need to think about the manner in which the pet will be received by each of your students. While you can certainly use the animal as a valuable tool in teaching them about respect, discipline, and compassion, it’s important that you make clear that the pet is a privilege and not a right. If you establish this understanding early on, ideally before you introduce the pet into the environment, you will be able to use it as a sort of classroom management tool.

For example, if your students performed and behaved very well during a given week, you might reward them with 15 extra minutes on a Friday to play with the animal. One of the best ways to go about creating this atmosphere of respect and responsibility is through involving your students in the process of creating rules for classroom interaction with the animal.

Consider the Wellbeing of the Animal

Naturally, when considering bringing a pet into your classroom you must also be careful to consider the wellbeing of the animal. As People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has pointed out, many classroom pets, whether we recognize it or not, are effectively being abused by being kept inside. For many of these animals, such as mice, hamsters, and the like, being inside constantly or confined to a small terrarium is unnatural and can be traumatizing.

If you’re unsure that you will be able to provide the animal with the space and exercise that it needs to lead a happy and healthy existence, then it may not be worth introducing one into your classroom. Of course, most teachers who bring animals into the wrong kind of environment are probably only doing so out of not knowing the detriment of their actions. To combat this, you’ll want to research the specific pet you are considering and its needs thoroughly before committing to the idea.

Using a Pet as an Academic Resource

Before you bring an animal into an academic environment, take time to think critically about whether or not you will be able to involve it in your lesson plans. As Tolerance has indicated, classroom pets can be great resources for teaching everything from lessons on respect and diversity to science classes. For examp