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24 July, 2010

TEACHER STOPPED TEACHING SUBJECTS, INSTEAD SHE "TAUGHT" CHILDREN

I recently heard the following story.  I think it is worth passing on to followers of this site.  It substantiates my theory that a child never forgets someone who has paid special attention to them.

Jean Thompson stood in front of her fifth-grade class on the very first day of school in the fall and told the children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked at her pupils and said that she loved them all the same, that she would treat them all alike. And that was impossible because there in front of her, slumped in his seat on the third row, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were unkempt and that he constantly needed a bath. Teddy's attitude and personality were unpleasant too.  It got to the point during the first few months that she would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then marking the F at the top of the paper biggest of all. Because Teddy was a sullen little boy, no one else seemed to enjoy him, either.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s records and put Teddy’s off until last. When she finally opened his file, she was in for a surprise. His first-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright, inquisitive child with a ready laugh.” “He does his work neatly and has good manners…he is a joy to be around.”

His second-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student well-liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.”  His third-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy continues to work hard but his mother’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.”

Teddy’s fourth-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class. He is tardy and could become a problem.”  By now Mrs. Thompson realized the problem, but Christmas was coming fast. It was all she could do, with the school play and all, until the day before the holidays began when she was suddenly forced to focus on Teddy Stoddard.

Her children brought her presents, all in beautiful ribbon and bright paper, except for Teddy’s, which was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper of a scissored grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents.  Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of cologne. She stifled the children’s laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume behind the other wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed behind just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my mom used to.”

After the children left she cried for at least an hour. On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children (there is a difference).  For starters, she applied her new teaching philosophy by concentrating particularly on none other than problem student Teddy himself.  The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. On days when there would be an important test, Mrs. Thompson would remember that cologne. By the end of the year the backward boy had become one of the smartest children in the class and…well, he had also become the “pet” of the teacher who had once vowed to love all of her children exactly the same.

A year later she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that of all the teachers he’d had in elementary school, she was his favorite. Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy.  He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still his favorite teacher of all time.

Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson she was still his favorite teacher.  Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still his favorite teacher, but that now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.

The story doesn’t end there. You see, there was yet another letter that Spring. Teddy said he’d met this girl and was to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years before and he was wondering…well, if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the pew usually reserved for the mother of the groom. And guess what, she accepted and wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And I bet on that special day, Jean Thompson smelled just like…well, just like the way Teddy remembered his mother smelling on their last Christmas together.

There is no telling what type of impact we may have on another person’s life through our actions ... or lack of same.

2 comments:

Wanda Pellerin said...

Thanks Dick for the great story! It reminded me of my mother, a one-room country school teacher. Her students always seemed to like her a lot!

I remember one boy in particular who was a disipline problem while in grade 8. He was a tall, big boy whereas my mother was short and stout! She was usually quite patient with him but one day he pushed his luck too far. My Mom grabbed him by the shirt (which tore) and marched him off the baseball field telling him to "SIT". She was shocked when he did as he was told.

That boy visited us for many years, just to say hello and how much he liked her as a teacher. He loved to ask "remember the day you tore my shirt" and laugh about how "he deserved it"

Dick Wright said...

Thank you Wanda. Your story about your school teacher mom is every bit as good as mine. In this case she was not teaching the Three R's. The subject was about disipline and respect for which the boy, to his credit, earned straight A's.