FOR ONE MORAY secondary school the teacher shortage is being helped in the most unusual manner possible – Scotland’s first canine classroom assistant.
For several months now Speyside High School has been employing the services of Brodie, a golden retriever who is currently helping to pioneer a Reading with Dogs programme.
Brodie was first introduced to pupils in September for a 12-week trial – now, however, it has proven to be so successful that the school has decided to retain Brodie into the new year.
Within weeks of his arrival Brodie, who sits and listens attentively as pupils practice their reading skills aloud to her, has been credited with helping five children overcome their reading difficulties.
Support for learning teacher, Deidre Christenson-Main, said: “At first, the children thought we were kidding when we told them they would be reading to a dog. But it can be daunting reading aloud to an adult, as children can feel they are being judged if they need to take their time. The dogs make them more relaxed, they are already less hesitant in their reading and we are just a few weeks in.”
The suggestion that Brodie be recruited came from head teacher Patricia Goodbrand who had heard about Reading with Dogs and suggested her school might create their own programme.
The Elgin branch of the Canine Concern Scotland Trust was quick to respond with Brodie, who had been working for several years as a ‘therapet’, helping students to relieve their examination stress as well as visiting hospitals and care homes. Brodie, however, had to scale back her activities after losing her sight.
Canine Concern Scotland Trust’s Maureen Thomson said: “Brodie’s owner had been thinking about retiring her, but now she doesn’t have to. Brodie is brilliant with things like this.”
Confirming that Brodie would continue to work with the children, Patricia Goodbrand said this week: “She is a very popular character, the front of the school tends to be busier than it normally is when Brodie arrives. Anybody who meets her in the morning always has a big smile on their face.”