Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Brownie the Bear Makes a Visit

This year, Will is in Mrs. A.'s class. We love Mrs. A., who was also Jack's first grade teacher. We actually requested her for Will and were very pleased when he was assigned to her class. Mrs. A. is the quintessential first grade teacher. She is pretty and sweet and has amazing dimples, but she's no pushover. Mrs. A. runs a tight ship.

It wasn't until last week, crammed into little first grade seats on Back to School Night, that we remembered Brownie the Bear. Mrs. A. was going over the curriculum when her dimples got extra dimply and she pulled out the canvas tote bag with Brownie embroidered across the top.

The Man and I looked at each other in horror. Brownie! We'd forgotten all about Brownie!

Brownie the Bear is a journaling bear, which is to say, each day a lucky child in Mrs. A.'s class gets to bring Brownie and Brownie's journal home. He or she spends the afternoon and evening recording all the fun things Brownie sees and experiences.

I know, I know, it's a charming idea. In theory, I love it. My first Back-to-School night with Mrs. A., way back in 2000-whatever (I'm too lazy to do the math--Danielle, when did our guys start first grade?), when Mrs. A. brought out Brownie the Bear, I swooned. What a wonderful way to get the kids interested in writing! Everyone thinks this. How could they not?

And then comes the day when your child brings Brownie home.

Brownie never comes home on a day when there's nothing going on. Brownie only seems to appear on very busy days, Cub Scout days, taekwondo days, dentist days. Now, on the one hand, that gives your little first grade journaler a lot to write about ("We took Brownie to my big brother's basketball practice, and Brownie got run over in the parking lot!"). On the other hand, have you ever had the pleasure of helping a first grader journal? It takes forEVER. Bath time be damned! Bedtime? Nevermind. The journal must be written in, and the only way out is through.

And because we're all overachievers at Our Fine School, our little ones don't just write; they take pictures, too. So you better have ink in your printer when Brownie comes over, and batteries in your digitial camera. And, oh yes, make sure that you don't allow any pictures of Brownie to be taken on the couch the dog has been slowly eating over the last two years. Because, believe me, the kids won't be the only ones looking at the pictures taped into the journal.

So, anyway, guess who got to bring home Brownie first?

Brownie went with us to the middle school to pick up Jack after intermural volleyball. Brownie played lacrosse with Will, and met all of Will's "guys"--his insanely huge collection of stuffed animals, all of whom had to be dragged out of their special basket and arranged on Will's floor (where they still remain, of course) to have their picture taken. Brownie got to hang out with Travis the dog, who thought Brownie was an interesting new chew toy.

Brownie made it back to school this morning, and is now torturing Win's family. But he'll be back--in roughly three and a half weeks. And then again three and a half weeks after that. And again. And so on. And each time, we will have to think of new things for Brownie to do because being the overachievers we are at Our Fine School, each journal entry will have to top the last, until Brownie is flying on a plane to Paris for spring break while drinking champagne out of a stewardess's shoe.

How on earth could we have forgotten about Brownie?


Pom Pom said...

That is SO funny! Well meaning teachers think of so many things that parents fret over! Why don't you buck the system a bit and say, "Brownie stayed in his bag the entire time because we've decided we are very private people." Oh, Frances I love the spin you put on motherhood! You are so entertaining!
We have back to school night tomorrow which means Pom Pom leaves home at 6:30am and returns at 9:00pm. Yikes. How's the sweater?

Dulce Domum said...

I am amazed that you have Brownie the Bear. We have Barnaby the Bear at Our Fine Schook UK edition. He likes to travel. He's travelled on a tractor, a Harley, a big digger, a Ford Focus...and by the time we had him we had no option but to let him travel on a pink Barbie bike. He did nothing else but eat tea with us, watch Timmy Time and be pushed around the drive on a five year old's bike. The next child to take him home took him for a ride in a hover craft (this is a lie, but we felt like a bunch of duds for choosing the Barbie bike option). Oh and you're so right about he time it took to write up his travels in his special diary, and the anxiety over the other children's work, and the ink in the printer...

Tracy said...

You know, it is so much easier to deal with the dolls, in our case, who come home in Preschool. No one presumes a preschooler will be able to write. The kids talk, the Mum scribes. Easy peasy. Fast!

Knowing how Year 1's write I can empathise with your pain! Particularly when we're talking boys who hate to write!

Does the escalation of Brownie's adventures include virtual trips? My the trip we could concoct if Brownie were allowed to visit my very cute little Prep/Year 1's!

Gumbo Lily said...

I've never heard of Brownie the Bear, but I did receive a Flat Stanley one time in the mail and he, also, was a torture to our family. *We* were supposed to help fill out the journal that came with FS and send it on to the next victim. This was a project for 2nd grade (I think) and is very similar to Brownie. I glad that at least your child did some of the work.


Angela said...

As a Supply Teacher, I admit I HATE Barnaby Bear [Brownie's UK cousin, as DD has explained] I could weep for the child who has hand-drawn a picture of BB having tea with grandma- when last weekend, BB got to travel to Paris on Eurostar with another richer kid, and so that entry was accompanied by full colour photos. He is a nasty little creature who causes much rivalry and division. If I was a parent now, I hope I would have the courage to say "sorry, BB got run over by the Eurostar train this week and we had his funeral on Saturday. Here's a picture of his headstone ion the cemetery. He won't be back again!"

Angela said...

Another - rather wicked- thought. If I took pics of BB here in England, and emailed them to you, could you 'photoshop' Brownie onto them, and say he flew to Britain to spend Sunday with his English cousin??

Dulce Domum said...

Do it, Angela! Do it!

victoria said...

I am nearly fainting with such a strong sense of relating to this trauma. I HATE the homework bags sent home with a stuffed toy or class book or "newspaper journal". We have had so many annoying experiences with this tradition. The only one I like is the "mystery bag" where the kid ges sent home with an empty bag and has to bring it back with an object, any object, in it to show to class. It should stay as simple as that. And what about the assumption these days that all parents should have a working printer available at all times - dreadful!!

Gretchen Joanna said...

It took me a long time to get to this post but I have to comment anyway, and say that it reminds me of some very selfish reasons I loved homeschooling.
And it reminds me of how I used to do journaling and letter-writing when circumstances were favorable, with no peer competition. Most of the letters our children wrote to their grandparents started out, "I am sick today."
I love all the ideas about how to stand up to the system and say NO! I was always too compliant, maybe cowardly?

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