Fifth Grade Teacher (a favorite story)

March 14, 2011


Fifth Grade Teacher 


(A fictional story written by Elizabeth Ballard, 1974)

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 there in the front row, slumped in his seat, 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 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Teddy’s fourth  grade teacher wrote, ‘Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in  school.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 sometimes sleeps in  class.’
By 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’s.  His present was  clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a 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 perfume.  But she stifled the children’s 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.  On that very day, she  quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic.  Instead, she began to  teach children.  Mrs. Thompson 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 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  had finished 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, had 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. 
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 the best and favorite teacher he  ever had.  But now his name was a little longer.  The letter was  signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.

The story  does not end there.  You see, there was yet another letter that spring.   Teddy said he had met this girl and was going to be married.  He  explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering  if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit at the wedding in the place that was  usually reserved for the mother of the groom.  Of course, Mrs. Thompson  did.  And guess what?  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.

They  hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, ‘Thank  you Mrs. Thompson 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.  She said, ‘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.’

Warm  someone’s heart today. . . pass this along.  I love this story so very  much, I cry every time I read it.  Just try to make a difference in  someone’s life today…  Just ‘do it’.

Random  acts of kindness, I think they call it!

Believe in Angels, they return  the favor.


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