The Value of Affirmation …… Via my friend Chip Hedges

…… The teacher who quit teaching,   reading, and began to teach children.  Her name was Mrs. Thompson. As she stood in  front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children a lie. Like most teachers,  she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. But 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 didn’t play well with the other children,  that his clothes were messy and that he constantly  needed a bath and 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 Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school.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 was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from  the 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  ne 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 Mum 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 the lie, that  she loved all 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 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 his whole 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 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 doesn’t end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he’d  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 in the place at the wedding 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 the several rhinestones  missing. And 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 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.”