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I was on spring break a couple of weeks ago. I got to go to my son’s house while he and his family went to Florida. My task was to care for their pets – an aging cat and dog. Of course, my own dog, who is also aging, but many years younger went along.

Although I know these animals quite well, caring for them 24/7 is quite different than just visiting for a few hours.

By day five I still did not have the dog’s schedule quite right. The cat let me know that I had not cleaned her litter box in a timely manner by leaving a small deposit on the floor. My dog was being quite tolerant of this extreme change in his routine, and I repeatedly praised him for his good behavior.

My dog tends to walk on a leash much like a snail darter – here, there, and back here again – all at a rather high rate of speed. The older dog, God love her, has gotten quite slow. There was no way I could walk both of them at the same time. Their sleeping, eating, walking, “bathroom” breaks, and even treat schedules were totally different.

They both needed the same things. Eat, drink, sleep, relieve themselves, play, etc. However, just because the needs were the same did not mean that I could provide them at the same time or the same way.

Then there is the cat. She and my dog have gotten “into it” a couple of times in the past. Episodes that neither of them have forgotten. She really just wants her vital needs met and that miniature schnauzer kept away from her! That same miniature schnauzer really, really, really wants to get to the cat. If he even thinks I’m headed for the door to her area, he is under my feet.

I am a grown woman with plenty of pet experience, but these three animals kept me on my toes for a week plus!

This experience, like most things I do, reminded me of children.

Let’s take this somewhat humorous experience and expand it to a classroom with one teacher and 20 – 30 children. There are the snail darters – always fast, always alert, and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Then there are the plodders. Slow to respond, unsure of what to do next and needing someone there nearly all the time to direct the way. And finally, the ones who tend to shy away from everyone. Not sure they even want to be a part of the process. And quick to act up if they don’t get their way.

One teacher is given the responsibility of ensuring that each child learns all the skills, preferably at the same time. However, the children like the pets need very individualized instruction and attention. Without it they will not know what to do, or they will find their own way.

And the teacher – how is he or she to know what to do to meet the needs of each of these children? I know these pets, but I still had challenges making certain each of their needs was met properly and in a timely manner.

At least there are no rules in the animal kingdom that define by what age a dog must be house trained! Or specify what size treat an animal may have or when they can have it. Then there is the complete lack of rules determining where an animal is allowed to sleep!

Children, on the other hand, are easily put into categories where it is easy to define when they must know their alphabet. What they can have for lunch. When they have to be able to add, subtract, etc.

Oh, right! Children are not easily put into categories!

Too bad the folks in charge of public education do not know this.