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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Start (01/16/06)

By Teresa Hollums



Looking at her grade book once again, the new teacher gave an audible sigh of “not again.” “Why and why again and again do my students refuse to study and learn?” she questioned the open air. “I have worked so hard and I know I have given my very best to preparing the lesson and over and over again I have drilled them. Surely they can’t be that dumb. Why did I ever choose to be a teacher? Maybe it is just the squiggly junior high level. Maybe it’s that our principal just keeps on wanting us to do just the TAKS test drilling. I have so much to do and it all seems so fruitless. None of my students really even want to learn—much less to put time in on it.” She ended her oration to the empty room and realized she couldn’t begin to count all the times she had repeated the same questions over and over again.

She finally picked up her papers to be graded and slowly walked out of the school to go home to her family who demanded supper and lots of care and time with 2 small boys and a husband who seemed to just want to collapse after his work. Her shoulders slumped in resignation as she slowly drove home. Depression began to dig its home a little deeper into her mind—filling it with dissatisfaction and more and more of the old “poor me” syndrome. As she drove slowly to the baby sitters to pick up her youngest, she saw one of her students walking home from school. She suddenly looked more carefully at him. His shoulders were slumped just like hers and his head down. He seemed to walk slower and slower. His coat was thin and looked much worn. His tennis shoes were dirty and sometimes he even smelled. His skin a different color from hers and his world so different from her comfortable one filled with so many more things. She knew he always ate the free lunch at school and probably needed it just to survive.

Her consciousness was suddenly released in a torrent of empathy and understanding. She braked to a stop after she pulled over to where he was walking.

“Joe, Joe,” she asked, “Can I give you a ride home?”

He looked up from his staring at the ground, and finally focused his eye on his teacher. “Oh, hi, Mrs. Jones—that—that would really be nice. Are you sure it’s not out of your way. I live about 6 blocks down from here.” His eyes seemed to pick up a sparkle of hope for a little relief from his very cold walk.

“That will be fine; it’s too cold to walk today. Just get in, Joe.”

“Thanks,” came the word of concession to her directions.

After just a little bit, Mrs. Jones again looked at Joe and a lightening revelation came to her. “Hey, Joe, how are things at home? I know at school today you seemed distracted--a little too quiet.”

“Funny you should ask that, Mrs. Jones. As a matter of fact, my dad left last night after they had a real good fight. He hit mom and they screamed for a few hours at each other before he finally left. Mom is bruised, but won’t say anything to the police. I don’t know how to help mom. She needs a job real bad and I probably need to quit school and help. I ‘d like to try school, but I’m not very good at it-- you know that, Mrs. Jones”

Mrs. Jones's whole being reached out to him with deep care and concern. “I know it must be hard to study when all that is going on, but I know you can do school if you just really concentrate in school when you are there and really, really want to learn. You are a smart boy and you’ll help your mom lots more if you can actually help her when she is older and needs lots and lots of your help. Just keep on working and, Joe, if you need me to help you after school in any way, let me know. I will always help any one who really wants to learn. Just keep on going. I ‘m betting you mom needs your stability and quiet ear as she is hurting now—and, Joe, “ she hesitated for second as she knew she had not been doing her daily devotionals to really keep in touch with God. Then she resolved in her heart to make the next statement really, really true for this hurting student, now also a friend who had confided such a deep concern to her in trust—“and, Joe,” she repeated, “know that I’ll be praying for you everyday.”

“Will you really do that for me, Mrs. Jones, Do you really believe in prayer?”

Mrs. Jones quickly scanned her heart and knew that she had developed calloused layers of only her own point of view and only her needs. Only God, speaking through this hurting adolescent, could soften away those many hardened layers of selfishness and pitiful ways of doing it only by herself. Only God could make her realize her own pride and prejudice against these students that she had berated everyday and almost every period. She knew who had to change—it had to be God changing her.

After the quiet of thoughts of letting God control, she prayed to God before she answered, “Of course I do, Joe. As a matter of fact God has answered one of my most heartfelt prayers by just putting you in my life today. “

(949 words - maximum 750 words required)

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Member Comments
Member Date
Nina Phillips01/23/06
I really enjoyed your story, very realistic and to the heart. Thank you for your sharing. God bless ya, littlelight
terri tiffany01/24/06
This was a nice story. You might want to spell out your numbers. I liked your opening paragraph...it moved into the second one nicely. Sometimes I had some trouble following the story line with your use of adjectives and adverbs. Try writing some of the sentences with fewer and see what you think.:) Keep writing!
Alexandra Wilkin01/25/06
A lovely story - it can be far too easy for us to become blinded to all those far worse off than ourselves. There is an honest and tender heart in your writing - some polishing and a little editing would make this a real gem with a strong message. Keep writing and God bless.