Sweet-natured dogs lolling about classrooms are helping take a bite out of bullying--and other bad behaviors--in Kansas City schools.
No More Bullies teaches, with dogs' help, responsibility, compassion, self-control and integrity. Since its small launch five years ago, teachers and counselors have become so convinced of the positive impact on kids' behavior that it's booked into the 80-classroom max it can handle, and there's a long waiting list of requests for next year.
The curriculum, developed by ex-teacher Jo Dean Hearn, humane education director at animal rescue group Wayside Waifs, is presented an hour a day for five days by trained volunteers--accompanied by irresistible canines.
Your pet can teach, too
Family pets can help teach respect, empathy and compassion--just don't expect to replicate the results of a formal curriculum presented by trained trainers. Tips from trainer Thompson:
Emphasize the animal’s comfort, making sure there's always water, that it's fed on a schedule and is included in the family.
Never use physical punishment or harsh language when Fido does something unacceptable. For example, talk about why he chewed something--left alone too long, no appropriate things to chew on--“so the child begins to think about if he were in the dog’s shoes … that’s empathy.”
Involve kids in vet visits and pet food shopping so they develop an awareness of helping others, "especially those who are smaller, more vulnerable or without a voice."
"The animals are the glue that helps the children stay focused and understand the message," says Hearn. "Children can easily identify with an animal. And it's easy for them to transition when we ask them to consider how an animal feels (if ill treated) to how the kid sitting near them feels (if poorly treated)."
Adds teacher Peggy Everist: "There's a lot of specific language, like being fair, and using compassion or integrity, that plays out with the students throughout the year."