Monday, August 29, 2011
The Gift that Lives On
As a new school year begins, teachers everywhere could use an inspirational story to get them motivated and thinking about the best needs of their students. The following is a true story shared to me at a Comprehensive Behavior Management class last week that I shared with my eighth grade team of teachers on Friday. Get the tissues ready!
The Special Story of Miss Thompson
I know of a schoolteacher named Miss Thompson. Every year, when she met her new
students, she would say, "Boys and girls, I love you all the same. I have no favorites." Of
course, she wasn't being completely truthful. Teachers do have favorites and, what is worse,
most teachers have students that they just don’t like.
Teddy Stallard was a boy that Miss Thompson just didn't like, and for good reason. He
just didn't seem interested in school. There was a deadpan, blank expression on his face and
his eyes had a glassy, unfocused appearance. When she spoke to Teddy, he always answered in monosyllables. His clothes were musty and his hair was unkempt. He wasn't an attractive boy and he certainly wasn't likable.
Whenever she marked Teddy's papers, she got a certain perverse pleasure out of
putting X's next to the wrong answers and when she put the F's at the top of the papers, she
always did it with a flair. She should have known better; she had Teddy's records and she knew more about him than she wanted to admit. The records read:
1st Grade: Teddy shows promise with his work and attitude, but poor home situation.
2nd Grade: Teddy could do better. Mother is seriously iII. He receives little help at home.
3rd Grade: Teddy was a good boy, but too serious. He is a slow learner. His mother died
4th Grade: Teddy is very slow but well-behaved. His father shows no interest.
Christmas came, and the boys and girls in Miss Thompson's class brought her Christmas
presents. They piled their presents on her desk and crowded around to watch her open them.
Among the presents there was one from Teddy Stallard. She was surprised that he had brought her a gift but he had. Teddy's gift was wrapped in brown paper and was held together with Scotch tape. On the paper were written the simple words, “For Miss Thompson from Teddy.”
When she opened Teddy's present, out fell a gaudy rhinestone bracelet with half the stones
missing and a bottle of cheap perfume.
The other boys and girls began to giggle and smirk over Teddy's gifts, but Miss Thompson at least had enough sense to silence them by immediately putting on the bracelet and putting some of the perfume on her wrist. Holding her wrist up for the other children to smell, she said, “Doesn't it smell lovely?" And the children, taking their cue from the teacher,
readily agreed with “oos" and “ahs”.
At the end of the day, when school was over and the other children had left, Teddy
lingered behind. He slowly came over to her desk and said softly, “Miss Thompson...Miss
Thompson, you smell just like my mother .... and her bracelet looks real pretty on you too. I'm
glad you liked my presents."
When Teddy left, Miss Thompson got down on her knees and asked God to forgive her.
When the children came back to school, they were welcomed by a new teacher. Miss
Thompson had become a different person. She was no longer just a teacher; she had become an agent of God. She was now a person committed to loving her children and doing things that would live on after her. She helped all the children, but especially the slow ones, and especially Teddy Stallard. By the end of that school year, Teddy showed dramatic improvement. He had caught up with most of the students and was even ahead of some.
She didn't hear from Teddy for a long time. Then one she received a note that read:
Dear Miss Thompson:
I wanted you to be the first to know, I will be graduating second in my class.
Four years later, another note came:
Dear Miss Thompson:
They just told me I will be graduating first in my class. I wanted you to be the first to
know. The university has not been easy, but I liked it.
And four years later:
Dear Miss Thompson,
As of today, I am Theodore Stallard, M.D. How about that? I wanted you to be the first
to know. I am getting married next month, the 27th to be exact. I want you to come and
sit where my mother would sit if she were alive. You are the only family I have now.
Dad died last year.
Miss Thompson went to that wedding and sat where Teddy’s mother would have sat.
She deserved to sit there; she had done something for Teddy that he could never