I first heard this inspirational story told by Reg Weaver, NEA the summer of 2001 and obtained a copy from him shortly thereafter. In December 2002, I heard a tamer version by Dr. Wayne Dyer, on his PBS show/book titled" There's a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem." It turns out that the story was written by Elizabeth Silance Ballard and has now even been made into a video. The story, however, is not true: See Teddy Bared. I provide two versions here.

Let me tell you a little story...

as told by Reg Weaver

It’s about a teacher named Joanne Singer and a student named Theo Williams.

Joanne Singer stood in front of her fifth grade class on the very first day of school in the fall and told the children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked at her pupils and said that she loved them all the same, that she would treat them all alike. But that was impossible because there in front of her, sprawled out in his seat in the third row, was a boy named Theo Williams, or “T-Bone” as he like to be called.

Miss Singer had watched “T-Bone” the year before, and noticed he was a troublemaker. He was quick to pick fights with other kids. He wore the same rumpled, baggy clothes every day; he often needed a bath. He was often scowling alone in the corner of the schoolyard.

T-Bone was rude to Miss Singer, too. It got to the point during the first few months that she would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then marking the “F” at the top of the paper biggest of all.

At the school where Miss Singer worked, each teacher was required to review each student’s file midway through the year. She put off reading T-Bone’s until last. When she opened his file, she got a shock. His first grade teacher had written, “Theo is a bright, inquisitive child with a great sense of humor and an easy laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners. He is a joy to be around.”

His second grade teacher had written, “Theo is an excellent student, very popular and well-behaved. “But he is troubled because his mother has been incarcerated, and life at home must be a struggle.”

His third grade teacher wrote, “Theo continues to work hard, but his mother’s incarceration has been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his father doesn’t show much interest, and Theo is being shuttled between relatives. His home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.”

Theo’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Theo doesn’t show much interest in school. Some days, he acts out in class. Other days he is listless. He sometimes falls asleep in class. He is often late or absent and could become a problem.”

By now, Miss Singer realized the problem - but Christmas was coming fast. It was all she could do, with the school play and all, until the day before the holidays began and she was suddenly forced to focus on Theo.

That day, the students brought her presents - all wrapped in beautiful ribbon and bright paper - except for Theo’s, which was clumsily wrapped in the heavy brown paper from a grocery bag. Miss Singer took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents.

Inside was a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing and a bottle of cologne that was one-quarter full and had clearly been opened and used by somebody else. Some of the kids started smirking, but Miss Singer stifled their jeers when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume behind the other wrist.

After class was dismissed, Theo Williams stayed behind just long enough to say, “Miss Singer, 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, writing, and speaking. Instead, she began to teach children.

Joanne Singer now paid particular attention to the one they called “T-Bone.” As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. On days there would be an important test, Miss Singer would remember that cologne.

By the end of the year, Theo Williams had become one of the smartest children in the class and, well, he had also become the “pet” of the teacher who had once vowed to love all of her children exactly the same.

A year later, she found a note under her door, from Theo, telling her that of all the teachers he’d had in elementary school, she was his favorite.

Six years went by before she got another note from him. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still his favorite teacher of all time.

Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been really tough at times, he’d managed to stay in school, had stuck with it, and would graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Miss Singer that she was still his favorite teacher.

Then five more years passed, and yet another letter explained that, after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that Miss Singer was still his favorite teacher, but that now his name was a little longer. He was not T-Bone anymore, or even Theo. He was Theodore J. Williams, M.D.

The story doesn’t end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Theo said he’d met this girl and was going to get married. He explained that his mother had died years ago in prison.. .his father was long gone...and he was wondering...well, if Miss Singer might agree to sit in the pew usually reserved for the mother of the groom.

And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And I’ll bet on that special day, Joanne Singer smelled just like...well, just like the way Theo remembered his mother smelling on their last Christmas together.

Little Teddy Stoddard

as told by Wayne Dyer
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 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 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 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 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 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."

Last updated 11 November 2007

Duen Hsi Yen

E-mail: yen@noogenesis.com

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