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Teachers and the Art of Teaching

Friday, July 02, 2010

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 that she loved them all the same. However, that was impossible because slumped in a seat in the front row was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson 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.

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 surprised.

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 classmates but 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Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, 'Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school.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 sometimes sleeps in class.'

Now Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown, grocery bag-paper.

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 perfume. But she stifled the children laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day 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. It was on that very day, Mrs. Thompson quit teaching Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic and, instead, began to teach children. She paid particular attention to Teddy and, 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 that she was the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he was finishing high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in life.

Four years after that she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he'd stayed in school, stuck 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 got his bachelor's degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer.... The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.

This story doesn't end here. Another letter that spring from Teddy saying he'd met a girl and was going to be married. He explained his father had died a couple of years ago and Ted wondered if Mrs. Thompson would agree to sit at the wedding in the place that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course ... and she wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. Moreover, she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.

As they hugged each other, Dr. Stoddard whispered in her ear, 'Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me. You made me feel important and showed me 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.'

For those who do not know, Teddy Stoddard is the doctor at Iowa Methodist in Des Moines that has the Stoddard Cancer Wing.

This came to me from our internet friend and fellow MMA crazy, Dorothy. (Thank you, darling!) Warm someone's heart today... pass this along. I love this story so very much, I cry every time I read it. *Try* to make a difference in someone's life today.

And tomorrow? Random, wonderful acts of kindness.


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