I find deep inspiration in my best friend Jacquie’s classroom where twice a week she brings her cat, Faith, to hang out with her grade two students. For many of the students, this is their only pet, and they love her deeply.
While academics is, of course, the focus of the school day, that is not her only focus. Jacquie weaves love, kindness, peace and caring about others into the fabric of each and every day. Her cat Faith, who joins her at school twice a week is an intricate part of creating an environment where children can blossom. Her students arrive at school leaving more complicated lives behind at home, but they find a”home” inside the walls of her classroom. Over the ten months they spend together, they are gently transformed into kinder, more thoughtful little people, and Faith’s presence is an important part of this transformation. They step into a world where learning to love and be loving is equally as important as learning to read and understand mathematics.
I often hear that we need to bring God back into the classroom, but we all know God resides where there is love. The children may not be reciting the Lord’s Prayer every morning, but they are learning to be kinder to each other, sending love to those in pain, and filling their hearts with gratitude. In my friend’s classroom, I feel God every time I visit.
I wanted to share a little of my beautiful friend and her adorable cat Faith, so we did it through the interview below.
1. First, tell us a little about yourself and how you first decided to have a cat become part of your classroom?
I have been teaching for 32 years and have always loved cats! In my lifetime I have been blessed to have had shared my life and sometimes my classroom with five cats. When thinking of a classroom pet many years ago, a cat was definitely my first choice.
2. How does having Faith in the classroom help your students?
I think the biggest thing a cat brings to the classroom is love. My students all love her so much, and that love helps bring them together and builds community and connection. She connects the children more deeply in our classroom, and throughout the whole school. Faith is the common denominator that they all share. She also helps many of them who get easily upset or frustrated. By being able to go over and sit next to her and pet her, or even just watch her across the room, they can calm down and refocus.
She also adds a lot of fun and laughter. I think what I love most is the way they show their love for her through writing, spontaneous writing that comes right from their hearts! She gets lots of cards, notes, and pictures written to her because they love her so much. She is more of often than not the focus of our weekly classroom newspaper, and she frequently appears in their journal entries and stories.
3. What are some of the challenges of having a cat in your classroom?
Sometimes she can be a bit distracting, but we usually just embrace those moments by being present to them and enjoying them. Faith also gets a lot of visitors from other classrooms so sometimes that can be a challenge with time.
4. What are some of the students’ thoughts on having a cat in the classroom?
The kids often say that she helps them feel calm. They also say things like she makes me happy, and she makes me laugh. She brings peace and love to our classroom and our school.
5. Lastly, what does having a cat in your classroom mean to you?
That is the hardest question to answer because it is hard to put into words. Having a cat in the classroom is a big part of who I am and how I teach. For me the big things in teaching that I value and am the most passionate about include love, kindness, caring about others and peace. Faith is such a big part of that!
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