As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said she loved them all the same. However, that was impossible because there, in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little body named Teddy Stoddard.
Mrs. Thomson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant.
It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big “F” at the top of his papers.
At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records and she put Teddy’s off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.
Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote: “Teddy is a bright 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: “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Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote: “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school.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 he sometime sleeps in class.”
By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse as she remembered when her students brought her Christmas presents wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy’s. His present had been clumsily wrapped in heavy brown paper that he got from a grocery bag, and she had taken pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children laughed when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some stones missing and a bottle that was one quarter full of perfume. She had stifled the children’s laughter when she exclaimed how pretty it was and fastened it on her wrist, then dabbed some perfume behind her ear. Teddy stayed after school that day just long enough to tell Mrs. Thompson, “Today you smelled just like my mom used to.” After all the children left Mrs. Thompson cried for at least an hour.
That day, Mrs. Thompson quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children, and paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class, and despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her “teacher’s pets.”
A year later, she found a note under her door from Teddy, telling her she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.
Six years went by before she received another note from Teddy. He wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he had ever had in his whole life.
Four years after that, she received another letter. He said that while things had been tough at times, he had remained in school, sticking with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life.
Four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he received his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had, but now his name was a little longer: Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.
The story does not end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he had met a girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father died a couple years before and he was wondering is Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit at the wedding in the place usually reserved for the mother of the groom.
Of course Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with the missing rhinestones. Moreover, she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together. They hugged each other as Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “thank you for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.”
Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back: “Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn’t know how to teach until I met you!”
- 1 Comment
Leave a Response