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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Red (10/01/09)

By Yvonne Blake


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.

di Tob

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.

By Todd

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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This article has been read 1214 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Charla Diehl 10/08/09
Oh, we need more teachers like your MC--the kindness she showed to this student is immeasureable. Bless you for writing this.
Steve Uppendahl10/08/09
As a teacher myself, this story touched me. So many late nights, so many papers to grade, meetings to attend, parents to communicate with, so many days of wondering why we do this. Then stories like this one remind us and drive us forward. Nicely done.
Amy Michelle Wiley 10/08/09
Awww, sweet. I labored too hard over trying to figure out the note (understood most of it) before I realized you'd rewritten it below, haha. Great story. I admire all the teachers who make a difference, and look forward to the day I can help in a small way as a interpreter.
Sara Harricharan 10/09/09
Awww! What an awesome teacher. there needs to be more teachers and professors like that in todays academic world. Really! The "Scul" reminded me of Christopher Robin from Pooh. I'm glad that someone took the time to encourage a little boy and not label him as "stupid" just because his difference is in catching up what he is learning and putting it to use. Great job! This is an inspiring read for me on a gloomy day. ^_^
Pamela Calhoun10/09/09
Great Job! If only more teachers would pray for their students and ask how they can help them I believe there would be more stories like this to tell.
Joy Faire Stewart10/10/09
I especially enjoyed the description of the bulletin board of the autumn scene with Todd's writing in the center...very touching, thoughtful, well written story.
Jan Ackerson 10/12/09
This really touched the special ed. teacher in me.
Shilo Goodson10/14/09
This is one of my favorites of the week. I love the way you spelled the words the way kids really woudl spell them. I especially loved your "b" and "d" confusion that many young children face.
Shilo Goodson10/14/09
Oops, speaking of spelling words wrong. That should be "would spell them."
Catrina Bradley 10/14/09
So very touching. Love the way you used the topic color to reveal Todd's essay. Excellent.
Janice Fitzpatrick10/15/09
Oh, I love this one, so tender and sweet. If we could have more teachers, just more people in the world like this what a better place this would be. Great job in writing this wonderful piece and Congratulations on your win.
Laury Hubrich 10/15/09
Congratulations, Vonnie!
Marita Thelander 10/15/09
Congratulations, Vonnie. I like Todd. I've had a few Todd's in my years of ministry.
Brenda Shipman 10/15/09
Yay for your win today!! I used to be an elementary school teacher, so this resonnated a lot with me. I remember a "Billy" - foster kid, newly adopted by a great Christian family, rascally, ADD, big-hearted, a handful and totally loveable. Thanks for this reminder about the difference we can make.
Helen Dowd10/15/09
This was a wonderful story, Yvonne. Congrats on your standing of 6th! You deserved it, or even better. I love stories about how someone understands and helps the underdog...Oh that every teacher was so understanding....Lovely story...Helen
Mona Purvis10/15/09
Yvonne, this is such a warm, fuzzy piece. Good teachers are more rare than ever and I'm for championing them every chance possible.
This makes me think of when my baby brother was in 1st grade. His name was Brad Brian (he's passed away). He would sign all his papers Bard Brain.
Lisa Johnson10/16/09
I really enjoyed reading this story several days before results were out, and I know why it did so well. It is a great story. I loved the way your MC made the boy feel special instead of stupid. Congratulations on your level placement and your EC.
Lori Robbins10/16/09
as a past elementary school teacher I really enjoyed this one. My heart ached for teacher as she sought God's help for this little boy that was conveyed through a simple note. Very well written.
Michael Joshua10/16/09
What an excellent story. Having a grandson with a speech disorder - he cannot pronounce his consonants - I thoroughly identified him in your writing. Well done!!!
Diana Dart 10/20/09
I'm all choked up... This was truly a beautiful piece with a heartwarming message. Man, I do love good teachers!!! They can change the world. Thanks for this one.