Don't Kill the Class Pet





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       A cautionary tale for anyone new to teaching regarding class pets and good intentions.

     Not so funny, but interesting—The day after I graduated with my teaching degree, I was to start a temporary job as a first-grade teacher. Being conscientious, I went to the classroom after school on the Friday before that Monday for a look around. The previous teacher had resigned and already moved out. I was joined by the principal, who I believe, in retrospect, came along solely to point out the filthy water in the 10-gallon fish tank. I got the hint. After she left, I moved the big goldfish (think koi) to a bucket with the dirty water and dutifully cleaned the tank.

     Proud of myself for taking the initiative, I refilled the tank, reset the clean gravel and other aquarium tchotchkes. Then I scooped Goldie out of his bucket and placed him in his fresh tank. Now, anyone who knows how to properly care for an aquarium, is probably cringing, or maybe even yelling at this post buy now. Goldie included, if he had survived to read this far.

      Immediately, it became clear I had made a fatal error. The previously vibrant fish had suddenly become listless. Of course! I had not warmed the water to room temperature, and it was too cold for poor Goldie-the-classroom-pet. I frantically sought help from the only other person on this campus at the late hour, the custodian. She spoke no English, I spoke no Spanish, but together we figured out Goldie needed his water heated, pronto. 

     The custodian (I don’t recall her name it was thirty years ago and I was distracted) grabbed a huge trash can liner and filled it with warm water from the special warm water spigot only she could access. We dunked the bag into the tank hoping some thermal action could save poor Goldie. I am sad to report that despite our heroic efforts, Goldie perished. We were both in tears. My tears were because I had to figure out how to introduce myself to twenty-five first graders and tell them their beloved class goldfish had swum off to that big fishpond in the sky.  

     I decided I could soften the blow by finding some new tenants for the aquarium from a local creek. That's a whole other story. Come Monday morning the new little guppies were happily swimming in the tank unaware their landlord was a murderer. I had a list of fibs at the ready to explain Goldie’s absence. My plan was to put off discussing Goldie’s demise until asked, with tissues also at the ready.

     Immediately after the bell and the Pledge of Allegiance, I took attendance and introduced myself. Things went well—meaning no one was injured for the six week contract—including the teacher or the new pet fish. No one asked about, or even noticed Goldie had gone away. I’m sure there is some deep life lesson hidden in this sad tale, but I have no clue what it could be.

     Thanks for stopping by. Best of luck in your teaching career. Feel free to leave a comment. 




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Comments

  1. I did a 3 month job with first grade when I was going through a nasty divorce and facing serious health issues. I SWEAR those little kids saved my life. I would wake up crying and cry all the way to the school, in the classroom, but as soon as those little ones came in--they needed me and I had to get it together--their bathroom issues, runny noses, and squabbles needed my attention and all my problems went out the door!

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  2. Hi, Jodi, thanks for stopping by. It is amazing how focusing on the needs of others helps us through tough times. That is a little-known perk of teaching. Also, everyone has been a student and knows what "school" is, but those who have not served as teachers don't always understand that much more is involved than opening a textbook and lecturing. Be Well!

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