She stood in front of her 5th grade class on the first day of the new school year and told them an untruth; that she loved them all the same which was impossible because there, in the front row, slumped in his seat, was Teddy Stoddard.
Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the previous year and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he usually needed a shower. It reached he point where Mrs. Thompson actually took delight in marking his papers with a red pen, making bold X’s and writing a large F at the top of his papers.
She had postponed reviewing his past records and when she did so she was in for a surprise. Teddy’s first grade teacher had written; “Teddy is a bright child with a ready smile. He works 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 steps are not taken.”
Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote; “Teddy is withdrawn and disinterested in school. He has no friends and often sleeps in class.”
By now Mrs.Thompson realized what the problem was and felt ashamed. She felt worse when her students brought her Christmas gifts wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper and Teddy brought a clumsily wrapped gift wrapped in brown paper from a grocery store bag. She took pains to open it the middle of the other gifts but some children laughed when they saw the rhinestone bracelet with some stones missing and a bottle one-quarter full of perfume. She stifled the student’s laughter and exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was which she wore and dabbed perfume on her wrist. Teddy stayed after school that day long enough to say; “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mum used to.” When he left, she cried for at least an hour.
That was the day that she quit teaching reading, writing and maths. Instead, she began to teach children. She paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind came 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 loved all the children the same, Teddy became one of her favorites.
One year later, she found a note from Teddy under her door,telling her that she was the best teacher he’d ever had. Six years went by before she received another note from him. He wrote that he had completed high school and come third in his class and; she was still the best teacher he’d had.
Four years later, he wrote saying that while things had been tough at home, he’d persevered and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still his best and his favorite teacher.
Another letter explained that after he received his B.A. he decided to study further. Then he received his M.A. and signed his name; Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.
Later that year he said he was getting married but his father had died a couple of years ago and he wondered whether Mrs. Thompson would agree to sit at the wedding in the place usually reserved for the mother of the groom. She did, and she wore the bracelet with the missing rhinestones and the perfume that his mother used to wear.
They hugged and Teddy whispered in her ear; “Thank you for believing in me. Thanks for making me feel important and for showing me that I could make a difference.”
With tears in her eyes, she whispered back; “Teddy, you have it wrong. You taught me that I could make a difference. I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.”
This story may or may not be true but it is something that I shall always bear in mind …