The water bottle felt cool against my forehead. I closed my eyes and waited for the medicine to work. It was only October, but it felt like school had been in session for months instead of weeks.
Lockers slammed. Friends shouted. I closed the door to block the shouts of released exuberance. Just because it was three o’clock didn’t mean my day was done. Straightening desks and picking up forgotten pencils, I found a crumpled paper ball beneath Todd’s chair.
Poor Todd—tossed from one parent to another and several foster homes in between. His winsome eyes drooped in tandem with the corners of his lips. When he did speak, he stumbled over his words until he gave up trying to make himself heard.
I stretched and unfolded the wrinkles and smoothed his paper as best as I could. Red crayon marks streaked across it, with the word STUPID dominating the scene. Shaking my head, I fed the fish and erased the board.
Adding Todd’s paper to the others to be graded, I eased into my chair and closed my eyes. How can I help this little boy? What can I do to make him feel accepted? Why is there so much pain in this world? What can one teacher do? Lord, show me the best way to reach this little boy.
Not ready to face the problem right then, I snatched my red pen and attacked the multiplication worksheets. The repetitive answers allowed my mind to wander, but it kept returning to the small, sad face of Todd.
As the sun slid over down-side of the afternoon, its beams played with the colorful artwork on the windows. The room became a kaleidoscope of blues and yellows and greens. One beam washed my desk with a crimson hue. I stopped to enjoy the moment.
Todd’s paper looked different. Gone were the angry slashes. Gone was the degrading word. Letters sprawled across the lines—some large, some small, some even backwards. I drew the paper to me for a closer look. The assignment had been to write about what makes you happy.
SuM TMz Scul iz FuN
I bu NoT Lic th uTHr ciz Tu Laf aT Me
I Lic Tu eT aN pLa wTH SaM He iz Nis
I Lic Mi Techr She iz Nis She HLps Me reb
WHN I aM diG I WiL de a Techr Tu
I brushed my hands across a tear. He was learning! No, it wasn’t much. It wasn’t near what the others were writing. The spelling was atrocious, but I could understand it. I could see by the numerous erasure marks that he worked hard on it.
Smoothing it one more time, I turned to face my computer keyboard. A beautiful plan energized my fingers. I typed each paper in the stack and printed them big and bold. My supper would be late tonight. The custodian wondered when I’d be done so he could clean my room.
With orange pumpkins and yellow corn and autumn leaves all around, I stapled the stories on the bulletin board. I saved Todd’s for the very last and put it in the very middle—so everyone could see.
Sometimes school is fun.
I do not like the other kids to laugh at me.
I like to eat and play with Sam. He is nice.
I like my teacher. She is nice. She helps me to read.
When I am big, I will be a teacher too.
As I snapped off the switch, I looked back one more time. The hallway light illuminated the completed bulletin board. The papers seemed to be saying, "I am happy to be me. I am learning." Todd's seemed to be the happiest of all. Thank you, Lord, for giving me eyes to see it.
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