December 28, 2007

The Story of a Favourite Teacher

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 un-kept 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 F at 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Teddy's fourth-grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and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 scissor 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, writing, and speaking. Instead,
she began to teach children. Jean Thompson paid particular
attention to the 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
where 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 favourite. 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 favourite 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
honours. He assured Mrs. Thompson she was still his favourite
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 favourite 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.

You never can tell what type of impact you
may make on another's life by your actions or lack of
action.

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