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Give a second chance - An inspiring story

April 15, 2014

“As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, Mrs. Thompson 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. 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 Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school.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 must have got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some 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. That day, Mrs. Thompson quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. She paid particular attention to Teddy. As Mrs. Thompson 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 in his whole life. Six years went by before Mrs. Thompson got another note from Teddy. He 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, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. 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. But now his name was a little longer.... the letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD. “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," Teddy wrote. Mrs. Thompson, clutched the letter and sat back, with tears in her eyes. “Teddy, you have it all wrong," she whispered. "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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