Charlotte Yarnell spends her days teaching young Braves at Indian Hill Primary School (IHPS); when she leaves her classroom, she goes home to a very active 5-year-old.
“I have a big love bug of a yellow lab at home named Beauregard,” said Yarnell. “He is such a big part of my life.”
Beau (as he’s called) is such a big part of Yarnell’s life that she started to share stories and photos of her fur-baby with her students, and a bond formed.
“The Beauregard stories I share are usually funny day-to-day things he does that we giggle about, but they can be sad too. For example, Beau recently blew out his ACL and went through surgery. The students surprised me with get-well cards and letters for him which were precious, and they continue to ask how he is doing. The interest and empathy they show is priceless,” said Yarnell. “Most families in my class have pets, so my stories are of huge interest to my students because they can relate, and, in turn, our connection as a school family grows deeper.”
So deep that a stuffed-animal version of Beau has become an official member of the class. Stuffed Beau is the take-home prize given to Yarnell’s students to encourage reading and writing exercises. The program is called Take Home Beau, and Yarnell’s students are selected randomly to each spend a week with Beau. Stories about Beau’s adventures are placed in his journal that is kept in his travel bag. Students share their journal entries with the class, which provides an opportunity to practice public speaking skills.
“The students can’t wait for their turns,” said Yarnell. “We have heard about Beau riding the school bus, snuggling in bed reading with students, going trick-or-treating, and even playing in moving boxes as we had a class member move here from England this year!”
The excitement over Take Home Beau wasn’t limited to Yarnell’s students. It also caught the attention of fellow teacher Amy Campa.
“Charlotte shared the project with us during a grade-level meeting and was so enthusiastic about what her students were writing and how much they absolutely loved taking their class mascot home and writing about his adventures,” said Campa. “Having two dogs at home I also share stories about, I thought it was such a cute idea! I also liked the fact that it not only encouraged the students to practice their reading and writing, but also helped to foster a sense of responsibility and caring for something else.”
Campa started Take Home Toby and On the Move Molly, named after her two dogs. Each of the dogs has their own carrying bag and a journal. Two students get to take one of the dogs home each week.
“The schedule alternates so that we have two days of sharing each week,” said Campa. “The students can’t wait to see what has happened when we share!”
“It’s amazing how much my class has gotten to know about each other from listening to stories about one another and what they do at home,” said Yarnell. “It has also encouraged more reading and writing for pleasure, and it has allowed my students to take center stage as they report to their classmates about Beau’s visit. I am planning on hosting a picnic with the class at a park this summer so they can meet the real Beauregard; I know he will be over the moon to meet my kiddos!
“I love getting to know my class not just as the students they are in my classroom, but also as the children they are at home. Take Home Beau allows the students to share who they are with us.”
Photo caption: Indian Hill Primary School students in Charlotte Yarnell’s class with Beau.