Theodore was a gigantic stuffed bear that I found when I was volunteering for Goodwill Industries—he was about 4 feet tall. My first thought was that “he” would be great to take to my classroom at Robins Elementary and put him in a desk. But it was a Saturday and so the bear had to sit on the living room couch until Monday.
My huge dog didn’t care one bit about the bear; my cat did. Seems as if all that got done that weekend aside from cleaning and doing lesson plans, was keeping my cat away from that bear. Monday came quickly and I exited the door with my pocketbook on my left arm with my lesson plan book underneath my right arm. Having put both in my car, I had to go back inside and retrieve Theodore. He sat in the backseat.
Oh yeah, I got looks when people passed me staring at the bear in the backseat all right and even more when I got out of my car at the school parking lot. I couldn’t manage carrying everything and was so grateful when one of my students showed up and offered to carry Theodore into my classroom. He asked me where Theodore would go and I told him to just pick any seat that no one had. That being done, the student went downstairs for breakfast and I was busy with paperwork and all.
I was wondering what my student thought about it all but would find out about that later on in the day.
Passed out papers and put them on every student’s desk and some on Theodore’s desk. And waited—waited to see the reaction from my students. When the morning bell rang and my students entered the classroom, all of them saw the bear and all of them asked what he was doing there.
I told them that he was going to be a student and learn along with them. They looked at me like I was from Mars. The morning was progressing and lo and behold, the boy that had carried him in for me, went over to Theodore and did his work and promptly went back to his seat. All of my students witnessed what happened and yet not a word was said about it.
Theodore got looks and by the afternoon, student after student went to his desk, looked at his papers and one sat down with him. When the final bell rang, I heard many students telling him goodbye; one boy asked if he would be all right by himself. I assured him that he would be fine.
By Friday, Theodore became REAL to my students. He was read to, hugged and had all of his work mysteriously done. It was then that I knew I had made the right decision in buying him for he was what some students needed—something to care for and about.
Throughout the year, Theodore wore hats for every holiday, had cookies put on his desk, always had his classwork done and was hugged so much. But most of all, he was cared about. If he fell out of his desk, a student was right there to prop him right back up. Amazing what I witnessed. Amazing to my students.
When the end of school came, my students worried about him being left in the hot school but I told them that Theodore was going home with me and would be safe and cool. Relief washed over their faces.
I did take him home and he returned with me for the next four years. He was getting worn looking from being hugged, read to and having students sit with him. But most of all, he was loved and to my second graders who knew he wasn’t real, he was real to them. To so many, Theodore gave them a reason to care about someone else—and that was a great thing.
In the fifth year, the principal told me that Theodore wasn’t fireproof and I would have to take him home. My students were so upset that they actually cried. I cried. What to do? I decided to have each student put his or her name on a piece of paper and one drew a name. The lucky recipient got to take Theodore home forever and it was a little girl.
I can still picture that little second grade girl going down the street trying to carry a 4 foot tall bear. Called her parents to see if she arrived home all right and her mom said that she did but wanted to know why she had a huge bear with her. Explained it all and to my delight, she was happy about it. Her daughter was thrilled beyond words.
Theodore spent his next several years being loved, read to and hugged by that girl—I know because I asked her. When time came for the girl to go to middle school, I lost touch with her as well as Theodore. And I could only hope that the bear lived a long happy life.
An object such as a huge stuffed bear completely changed into a REAL bear with feelings to my students. And that was a very good thing. Theodore changed lives and for the better.
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