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Pets Are Allowed In School...Desk Pets

“I’m always a good student,” said Valentina Guerra “because I wanted a desk pet. Now that I have her, I want to get more dojo points to earn more food and games for her.”


Valentina earned her desk pet, “Cutey,” a yellow rabbit with pointy ears and overalls, for doing a good job with her math. She also earned food for her desk pet–a pink and brown cupcake–for being respectful.


What is a desk pet you ask? It is a small frog, cat, hedgehog or whale shark–there are scores of options–that may or may not double as an eraser and is undeniably adorable. 


And what are dojo points? Students can earn dojo points for lots of things. Any display of kindness to others, being ready, working productively, taking a risk in their learning and answering questions in a whole group setting. 


You may wonder why Mrs. Dzierzek’s and Mrs. Corbett’s and students are so crazy about desk pets and how they are connected to good behavior and productivity in the classroom.


“It is totally working!” said third grade teacher Erin Dzierzek. “We have found that it's a super effective behavior management system which promotes awesome behavior with our classes. At the beginning of the year they need to earn 20 points--that gives them their first pet and home; every ten points after that, they can go to the store for food or games for their pet. It is an immediate gratification system, as they can go to the store at any time that they earn enough points and not have to wait until the end of the day or week.” 

Students are building a world for their desk pets, so there is lots of incentive. At the front of the room, for all to see, sits a clear plastic apartment building–a storage unit for all of the pets and foods and games to be awarded.


Ariana Gershkowitz showed off her pet–a blue dog with long ears. 


“After I got my desk pet,” she said, “I signed off on her birth certificate–September 23rd. I named her Bella. After that I earned french fries, a pepperoni pizza and a bowl of strawberry ice cream for Bella. I worked well with others in my group and was answering questions.”


At a nearby table two students worked quietly together on three-digit subtraction. Next to them sat their desk pets in small “houses,” or plastic boxes.


Eleanor Tulley earned her yellow tiger with black stripes for being “extremely quiet,” and Emma Jones earned her white tiger for “doing excellent writing.”


“They are tiger sisters,” said Emma.

Enzo Chakides earned a blue fish, who he properly named “Finn” and a mini football for Finn–he was kind to a classmate. He explained, “When Mrs. Dzierzek starts giving out dojo points, EVERYONE is quiet!”