Out of the many possibilities for a class pet, a reptile was never on my list. And as we discussed with my class the options for a pet, the only reptiles I even considered were the ones I thought were more “interesting.” Bearded dragons, leopard geckos or even a snake would have been my first choice. Never, I thought, would I have chosen a “boring” pet, such as a turtle. But then, one day one of my students showed up in my class with a gift. A 4-inch red-eared turtle, which we now know as Victoria, or Vicky for short. Vicky is a rescue pet, not mistreated or hurt, but too much to handle for one of my students. But there she was, and so I quickly cleaned a small tank, added some water, and we were good to go. Or so I thought. For when I began to research and learn about all that was needed to care for a turtle, I quickly realized I needed a bigger tank, water conditioner, a water heater, a heat lamp, a water pump, the list went on and on. Now suddenly I too, felt I was going to have to find someone to rescue her, from me.
It’s been three months now, and it’s clear now that a turtle is not at all a “boring pet”, and well worth the work it takes to care for one. Vicky has changed the way I feel about turtles and she has even changed the classroom experience for my students. The students care for the turtle. They greet her in the morning, they check if she’s been fed, they feel responsible for her. They even bring her carrots they save from their lunch to feed her as treats. A few students even talk to her when their day is stressful, claiming it helps them calm down. It took some time for Vicky to feel at ease in the class. Initially she would hide, and attempt to swim away when the students approached her. But now she welcomes them, and lives day to day with the students as if they were part of her natural environment. The students too have become used to her. They volunteer to clean her tank, feed her, and have even started to worry and ask me ask how she will be taken care for in our upcoming vacation.
Overall, having a classroom pet has been a positive experience for my class and the school. But more importantly Vicky has given my students a sense responsibility and she has clearly become a part of our class. So much in fact that we had to include her in our classroom T-shirt. Vicky has forever changed the way I feel about having a turtle as a classroom pet. Everyone who interacts with her gets wrap around her shell ♥. Boring pet? Not at all. I just hope Vicky feels the same way about her humans!