The sudden unmuting of a fellow student, a quick flash in front of the screen, and a short break from a long lecture, all because of a furry friend. Although online school definitely has its challenges, there is one thing that can always bring a smile to my face: seeing my classmates’ pets. With classes fully online this year, it can be hard to stay motivated and engaged in school. However, there is something to be said about seeing a cute animal run across someone’s screen that can boost your mood.
For me, whenever I see a pet in my class, I immediately get a rush of excitement. I have always been a huge fan of animals. With them now making frequent appearances in my classes, I find myself staying engaged while online. Before online school, I have never had the exciting factor of being able to engage with so many animals during the school day. Sure, there’s been the occasional fish in my science classes, or a few stick bugs in the library, but nothing like a loving cat or dog.
Teachers and students alike agree that this new way of learning isn’t ideal. Having to adapt to a whole new learning environment can come with lots of challenges and stress. With these new hurdles, many students and teachers are noticing that their mental health is being negatively impacted. In the midst of all this new stress, the Franklin community is trying to find new ways to find joy in new places. Pets can certainly provide that for many.
Franklin science teacher Megan Whisnand has found a lot of comfort in pets, saying, “I think animals can release stress and create joy.” She loves seeing her students’ animals on screen, going as far as to say that “pets in class are on the top of the list of perks as for working at home.” Like students, each pet has its own unique personality. Whisnand loves seeing how different pets’ demeanors come across even through a screen. “All these animals really do have their own personalities, and I think the more people that can connect with animals and living things, [the more people] will hopefully care and protect them,” she said.
Students too, have enjoyed the extra time they get to spend with their animals. “We have to remember that a lot is happening in our world right now and everyone is being affected by it, some more than others,” says Cleveland student Lirit Miller (11). “One of the ways I like to debrief during these difficult times is hanging out with my cat, Annie. She always seems to make me feel better after a hard day,” says Miller.
Students not only enjoy seeing their own pet but also love it when their classmates’ pets have some screen time. “I think it’s cute to see pets, especially when they don’t disrupt anything. They’re just a nice, comforting presence,” said Lucy Benoit (12). Her favorite pet viewings are when cats walk across other students’ screens and keyboards.
During online school it can be hard to find motivation and get excited to log into classes. But pets can change that! When surveying other PPS students on an Instagram pull, more than half of respondents said that seeing pets “lightens the mood” during these tough times.
Although there’s very little to not enjoy when it comes to seeing pets in zoom classes, some may argue that it can be a distraction. Sophomore at Franklin High School, Phoebe Harrison commented about the struggles she faced when having her dog, Tesuque, on camera. “Tesuque has been a part of school, and at first it was really fun but then it started to get annoying and a little distracting, so I took her off of my lap,” said Harrison. Even though Harrison expressed some mixed feelings, even she believes that the positives outweigh the negatives.
Having to be fully online this semester isn’t ideal to say the least. Many people have struggled with adjusting to the new learning methods. But one thing that is for sure during these rocky times is that even the smallest things can make all the difference, even if that’s just seeing a four legged friend for a couple seconds.