You are never given the dog you want, but the dog you need.

Love is a Better Teacher than Duty

Today, I’ve got a story to share with you all. Its been floating around on my computer for some time now and each time I read it, there’s always a little flood of emotion. Some tears are shed, smiles form, and I always come away from the reading with a feeling of gratitude towards my own favorite teachers from over the years.

Teachers are wonderful things. We don’t always realize the impact that they have on our lives, at least not right away. But as the years pass, we begin to understand how they shaped us and helped us to grow as individuals. Sometimes, we are thanked by others that we have inadvertently taught over the years that we’ve known them, or even those few that learned from us during a brief period of time.

If any of you know where this story is actually from, let me know. I’ve long since lost the web address and/or location of the original tale and would like to be able to credit the original source if anyone knows it. In the meantime, I’ll keep searching.

 

Jean Thompson stood in front of her fifth-grade class on the very first day of school in the fall and told the children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked at her pupils and said that she loved them all the same, that she would treat them all alike. And that was impossible because there in front of her, slumped in his seat on the third row, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed he didn’t play well with the other children, that his clothes were unkempt and that he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy was unpleasant. It got to the point during the first few months that she would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then marking the Fat F on the top of the paper biggest of all. Because Teddy was a sullen little boy, no one else seemed to enjoy him either.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s records and put Teddy’s off until last. When she opened his file, she was in for a surprise.

His first-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright, inquisitive 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, “Teddy continues to work hard but 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 sometimes sleeps in class. He is tardy and could become a problem.”

By now Mrs. Thompson realized the problem but Christmas was coming fast. It was all she could do, with the school play and all, until the day before the holidays began and she was suddenly forced to focus on Teddy Stoddard.

Her children brought her presents, all in beautiful ribbon and bright paper, except for Teddy’s, which was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper of a scissored 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 cologne. She stifled the children’s laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume behind the other wrist.

Teddy Stoddard stayed behind 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, and writing, and speaking. Instead, she began to teach children.

Jean Thompson paid particular attention to one they all called “Teddy.” As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. On days there would be an important test, Mrs. Thompson would remember that cologne. By the end of the year he had become one of the smartest children in the class and…well, he had also become the “pet” of the teacher who had once vowed to love all of her children exactly the same.

A year later she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that of all the teachers he’d had in elementary school, she was his favorite. 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 his favorite teacher of all time.

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 graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson she was still his favorite teacher.

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 his favorite teacher but that now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.

The story doesn’t end there. You see, there was yet another letter that Spring.

Teddy said he’d met this girl and was to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering…well, if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the pew usually reserved for the mother of the groom.

And guess what, she wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing.

And I bet on that special day, Jean Thompson smelled just like…well, just like the way Teddy remembered his mother smelling on their last Christmas together.

THE MORAL: You never can tell what type of impact you may make on another’s life by your actions or lack of action. Consider this fact.

 

And there you have it. The little gem that has floated around my hard drive for years and has kept my favorite teachers near and dear to my heart as I’ve grown up.

That’s all I have for you guys today, and I leave you to consider the moral of the tale.

As usual, don’t forget to do your FreeKibble of the day and help donate to a great cause!

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One response

  1. When I saw/read this the first time it made my eyes leak … just like now. Thanks for sharing and the reminder that sometimes all it takes is a wee bit of love and understanding to change a life.

    April 3, 2012 at 9:41 am

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