Little Teddy Stoddard

LittleTeddyStoddardAuthor Unknown

There is a story many years ago of an elementary teacher. Her name was Mrs. Thompson. And 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 had 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Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school.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 student 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 got from a 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 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. On that very day, she quit teaching reading, and 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 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 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, 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 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 several rhinestone 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 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.”

A Speech Every American High School Principal Should Give

I happened to run across this article recently, entitled Speech Every American High School Principal Should Give.” I liked it so much, and agree with it so strongly, that I thought I’d share it with you this week.

It speaks for itself.


When Will the Education System Catch Up with the Times?

“We shouldn’t be putting them asleep. We should be waking them up to what they have inside of themselves.” ~ Sir Ken Robinson

Here is yet another very interesting view on today’s education system courtesy of TED (Technology, Education, and Design). Sir Ken Robinson discusses our current state of education and where it needs to go if we are to see all students fulfill their true potential through their creativity and multiple intelligences. Robinson challenges the way we are educating our children, arguing that our current education system is the problem, not the solution.

He questions why our education system, which was born out of the “intellectual culture of the Enlightenment and the economic circumstances of the Industrial Revolution,” is still being used today. Why, in our modern times of information explosion and rapid technological advances, are we still teaching our children via these archaic systems?

In his discussion Robinson scolds today’s educators for their methods. “Our children are living in the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the earth. They are being besieged with information that calls for their attention from every platform – computers, from iPhones, from advertisers, from 100s of television channels. And we’re penalizing them for getting distracted from what?” From the boring content courtesy of our archaic schools, education system, and teaching methods, says Robinson.

An especially good point that he makes is that in school you are told that the answers are in the back of the book, but A.) You’re not allowed to look there, and B.) No talking to your neighbor about the answers.

Yet outside of school, in the workplace and everywhere else, that would be called “collaboration.” Robinson argues that collaboration is the stuff of growth.

Between his excellent points and unique presentation style, this is a must watch video: Ken Robinson: Changing education paradigms

Anomalies or the Norm in our Education System?

Every now and then I run across stories on the Web that, I hope, are not true representations of the state of the U.S. education system. I instead hope that these are just anomalies, examples of those “students” who just weren’t paying attention in school and who are far from the norm.

If for no other purpose than to provide a good laugh, check out these examples of people who perhaps just missed some important facts in their math, science, and history classes:

People “Shocked” that the Titanic Really Did Sink

– Tough “MPH” Math Problem

Waiting For “Superman”

I just viewed the movie/documentary Waiting for Superman. It really did not tell me anything new that I didn’t already know, or at least suspect. More than anything it increased my disgust with the bureaucracy (administration and unions) of our education system.

That being said, this film omits what I think is another very significant part of the problem – disengaged parents. “Waiting” makes it seem like all parents are awesome and engaged, and that everything that’s wrong with our education system is due solely to the “broken system.” I believe that, unfortunately, as much as we hear about disengaged teachers, there are just as many disengaged parents who are not investing the time in their own children’s education.

I’m including here some clips and links to some of the most interesting information and statistics emerging from the documentary. It is definitely worth watching in its entirety if you are an educator. I think every teacher (union or not) should be forced to view it. Click each link below to see a clip or article:

Education vs. Incarceration

Saving America’s Schools (Michelle Rhee)

The Dance of the Lemons

Bill Gates Testifies before Congress on U.S. Education System

The Global Talent Crisis