Apples For Teacher

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 that she almost delighted 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. She was required to review each child’s past records, though, and she had put Teddy’s off until last. When she reviewed it, 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 Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school.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 was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought Christmas presents wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, all except for Teddy. His was clumsily wrapped in heavy, brown paper taken from a grocery bag. She opened it along with the others, and the children laughed when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing and a half-empty bottle of perfume. To stifle the children’s laughter, she said how pretty the bracelet was, put it on, and dabbed the perfume on her wrist. After class, Teddy stayed long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.”

She cried for what seemed like an hour.

On that very day, she stopped teaching reading, writing and arithmetic, and instead, began to teach children. She 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 still the best teacher he ever had. Six years went by before she got another note. He had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher in his life. Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with honors – and she was still his best and favorite teacher.

Then, four years later, a letter explained that he had decided to go a little further. It was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD. Another letter arrived that spring. Teddy was to be married. His father had died a few of years earlier, and he wondered if Mrs. Thompson might agree to attend the wedding and sit in the place usually reserved for the mother of the groom.

Of course she did, and she wore that old bracelet, the one with the missing rhinestones. She even dabbed on a bit of the perfume that had reminded Teddy of his mother. After the ceremony, Teddy gave Mrs Thompson a hug. “Thank you,” he said, “for believing in me, for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.” Mrs. Thompson whispered back, with tears in her eyes, 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.”

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This story, reblogged from www.facebook.com/pages/Apples4theteachercom, is a total fabrication, originally broadcast by Paul Harvey on April 4th, 1998. The following story is true:

My mother was a third grade teacher her whole adult life. She said there was a child like Teddy in almost every class. Most of them you missed or simply couldn’t reach. Every once in a while, you had one you thought maybe, just maybe, you’d made a difference for, but the odds were stacked so high against them, you tried not to think of their futures. The years wore on, and you did your job as best you could, and you tried not to let the bureaucracy or the complaining parents wear you down. And soon, despite the Mayberry stereotypes and your own best intentions, you could no longer remember their names.

My mother was a bit of a recluse, with a dog and a garden and a large cache of books — and only a few close friends. When I delivered her eulogy, I only recognized a handful of those in attendance, and the fellow teachers and aides were mostly recognizable by their dress and time-worn demeanour, so I asked by show of hands how many had been her students. She taught for thirty-three years. There were at least that many hands.

Before I left, I was handed a thick binder stuffed with notes and clippings from well-wishers all over the country who had not been unable to attend. Each had a story like Teddy’s. To this day, I’ve never made it past the first few pages.

 

 

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