Most people simply don’t understand what it’s like on the other side. We can’t see through each other’s eyes. But we can do everything in our power to empathize with others.
And even if we don’t truly understand, we can still lend a hug and a hand.
Upon a deeper look, elementary school teacher Jean Thompson began to understand the trials and tribulations of one of her most apathetic students.
Theodore “Teddy” Stoddard had long been one of the worst performers in class.
Eventually, Mrs. Thompson began to harbor resentment towards Teddy. She admittedly started enjoying marking his paper in red pen.
X’s and fat F’s became the norm for Teddy. His performance continued to suffer.
But Mrs. Thompson had yet to truly understand her underperforming student. She would soon realize that deep down he was a teddy bear.
Whether coming from a dysfunctional home or having a handful of personal and health issues, countless students face adversity most don’t understand.
Ultimately, many teachers give up and abandon them when what they need most is somebody who cares.
For months, Mrs. Thompson had little faith in her floundering student.
But all of that changed one day while taking a look at her students’ records. Mrs. Thompson saved Teddy’s for last.
To her surprise, his prior teachers spoke highly of him.
According to Bored Panda, 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.”
That’s incredibly sad. Nobody should have to go through such tragedy at a young age.
Then, 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.”
Finally, his fourth-grade teacher penned,
“Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school.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.”
The descent over the years was apparent. Mrs. Thompson began to sympathize with her troubled student. The death of his mother surely had a hand in his current struggles.
Her focus shifted towards helping Teddy succeed. Christmas was right around the corner…
Her students brought beautifully wrapped presents topped with ornate, sparkling bows… except for Teddy.
Loosely packaged in a brown paper grocery bag, Teddy proceeded to give Mrs. Thompson his present. Some of the students started chuckling at the unveiling of a rhinestone bracelet sans a few gems. An almost empty bottle of cologne came with it.
She appreciatively sprinkled some on her wrists, thanking Teddy for the beautiful gesture and diffusing some laughter in the process.
Before leaving the classroom, Teddy told his teacher,
“Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my mom used to.”
Once the students were all gone, she cried for over an hour.
The recent experiences with Teddy marked the beginning of Mrs. Thompson’s professional ascension, furthering her growth as a teacher. Now, she began working directly with her students, catering to their specific needs. She also began fostering and encouraging Teddy’s education.
Within a matter of months, he became one of the best students in class.
The more encouragement he received, the faster he seemed to respond.
A year later, Mrs. Thompson found a note under her door – from Teddy. He professed that she’s definitively his favorite elementary school teacher.
Years went by before his next note, announcing that he had just graduated third in his high school class.
And to this day, he considers Mrs. Thompson the best teacher he’s ever had.
We certainly don’t know every single one of each other’s stories. That’s a fact. Everyone’s backgrounds and situations are completely different. It’s literally impossible to plant yourself into the mind, body, and eyes of another individual.
But we can at least give people the benefit of the doubt, putting forth an effort to understand someone’s situation.
Although doubtful at first, Mrs. Thompson came to realize Teddy’s limitless potential, and ultimately each and every one of her students’.
Teddy went on to graduate college and beyond.
He eventually sent Mrs. Thompson a letter signed Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.
We can all do a better job trying to understand one another. There’s a reason people behave the way they do.
When it comes to “bad students,” it’s usually not as simple as a person hating class or being “lazy.” Sometimes, the situation’s a little more nuanced.
Have compassion for those outside of your immediate social circles. Everyone’s worth a deeper look.
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