“I first came in 2017, when I was in grade 5,” says Chloe. “When you’re feeling down, upset, sad and all those kinds of emotions, you come into the room and you can just sit down and relax. You can be calm, and you can draw, you can just sit down and do friendship bracelets. It’s just a really calm place to relax.”
The important role of Georgie the Dog
Georgie is Cool4School’s therapy dog. Not just a cute face, Georgie helps kids to calm down and self-regulate when they’re having a tough day at school. She also loves being walked, so both the kids and Georgie get some exercise when they hang out together.
“Georgie helps the children,” says Tanya, who runs Cool4School, “if they’re having a really crappy morning, they can just come in here and sit on the couch and just pat Georgie. She really knows when the children need that little bit extra as well. If she knows the kids are sitting OK, she goes off to a corner and does her own thing. But if she knows that child is feeling really down, she’ll go and sit with them and she’ll just give them lots of love.”
“And by the children patting her, they’re regulating everything in their body. Their blood pressure’s coming down, they’re starting to feel calm, and then they can be ready to talk to me.”
Children look forward to spending time in the Cool4School classroom with Georgie the dog – children like Ella, who has been going along since prep and is now in Grade 1. “Ella is normally waiting by my door on Tuesdays and Wednesday and is always keen as,” say Tanya.
It’s a peaceful place to go, where they can take time out from their hectic school day and talk to Tanya if something’s troubling them. As one parent put it, “there should be more people like Tanya – but she’s one-of-a-kind, I suppose!”
Good things are happening thanks to Cool4School
The headteacher at Chloe and Ryan’s school has seen a big difference thanks to Cool4School. The self-esteem and self-confidence of students have grown. And those who were struggling with their behaviours are coming to school more regularly and they’re staying in class more frequently. Which is all good news for the future.
Most importantly, kids like Chloe and Ryan love coming to hang out with Tanya and Georgie the dog in the Cool4School classroom.
“This place [school] used to be like a dark cloud in the sky,” Ryan tells us. “The next minute Tanya came, now it’s like a massive rainbow with white clouds. And when you leap into that massive cloud it comes into a magical room with magical people.”
Images: Robert McKechnie/Save the Children