Recently, the elementary school I attended had their 60th anniversary celebration which was open to the public. I have very happy memories of elementary school, my teachers, my principal, the classrooms, etc. So it was such a treat to walk the halls of that school after so many years, walk into my old classrooms, and see my beloved and adored principal who opened the school as a teaching principal back in 1956 and who was honored at the event. He is 91. The thing that struck me the most was how certain smells came back to me and those smells opened a floodgate of memories for me.
I can’t think of anything that I didn’t like about that school. I guess we all have a favorite year in school and in elementary school, I think I would have to say my favorite was my 2nd grade year. I loved my teacher and everything about the way she taught. Mrs. Andrews was a very hands-on teacher.
I remember one corner of her room was set up like a kitchen with cardboard appliances where we could play house….a pink refrigerator, stove, and sink. I still remember our reading hour and the second grade readers.
By far my favorite memory of 2nd grade was our classroom pet, Patches. Patches was a chubby and docile little Syrian (or Golden) Hamster. His hamster cage was set up in the corner of the room to the right of the doorway into the classroom. I can visualize that cage sitting there like it was yesterday.
Photo Credit: http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2014/03/07/hamsters-origins-syrian-aleppo-animals-world-pets/
We all got to take turns feeding and watering Patches and we also got to take turns taking Patches home for the weekend. As a veterinarian, I’m all for classroom pets, but only if education and adult supervision plays an integral role. With Patches, parental permission to take him home for the weekend was a must. There were papers to sign and instructions to read. I remember my mother taking me to the library right before it was my turn to take Patches home and how we checked out books on hamster care. I can still remember sitting on our green couch in the den and my mother reading those books aloud to me. I took my responsibility for Patches’ care very seriously as did my mother.
When the weekend to bring Patches home finally came, my mother set up a card table in our den and set the cage on the table. We read all the instructions together and essentially spent the weekend learning all about hamsters. Without a doubt, Patches was the center of attention in our household that weekend. Patches taught me some invaluable lessons about pet responsibility and hamster care. I remember how we laughed as we watched Patches stuff his cheek pouches full of food. And how we stood around the card table watching him shred paper towels, toilet paper rolls, and other bedding material into a soft fluffy nest. And how he grasped the test tube water bottle spout with his little hands and lapped the water out with his little tongue. How we oohed and awed over how cute he was all curled up asleep. And how he ran and ran and ran in the exercise wheel. I fell in love with that sweet cute little hamster and I didn’t stray far from that cage all weekend.
Several weeks after my weekend home with Patches, he escaped his classroom cage and disappeared (a very common problem with hamsters). We had no way of knowing whether Patches was still in the classroom somewhere or whether he had escaped under the door and into the hall where he would have full run of the school. I remember an entire classroom of 2nd graders searching high and low for days for that beloved classroom hamster. We wondered if we would ever see him again. I still recall the hollow sadness I felt at the loss of that hamster. About a week later, the custodian found a barely responsive Patches in our cloak room in the back of the classroom. There was a large bag of hamster seed stored back there and little gluttonous Patches had chewed his way through the bag and eaten to his heart’s desire. It was his demise and I recall that he died within hours of being found. Oh how I mourned that little guy.
Did you ever have a classroom pet? Was it a positive experience for you? I would love to hear your comments.