Based on a true story.
Mary James was always going to be a teacher. So it came as no surprise when the popular student returned to become a popular teacher.
“Mr. Davis, can I see you for a moment?”
“Mary James, how are you?” The clock on the wall said it was 7.30am. “You’re in awfully early,”
“Have you read this morning’s paper?”
Mary placed the broadsheet in front of me.
“Hey, there’s a picture of you.”
I quickly scanned the headline. “LOCAL TEACHER DISCOVERS ANCIENT ROCK CARVING.”
“It says you found them on a field trip.” I continued to read. “Thirty thousand years old!” I let out a low whistle. Somehow Mary’s face did not share my enthusiasm.
“So you’re famous.” I tried to understand. “What’s wrong with that?”
Mary paced the room as she struggled to find the right words.
“Do you remember Miss Fleming, the art teacher?”
“She left ten years ago.” There was a group photo on the wall with Barbara Fleming seated in the front row. “I think she got married.”
“Well Jamie Louise and I were in her class. We thought she would like them. That’s how come I knew where they were. Coz I helped make them."
The young woman was speaking quickly, almost in a panic.
“But it says here they're thirty thousand years old.”
Suddenly the absurdity of it made me laugh.
“Oooh,” Mary groaned. “This is serious. I’m in so much trouble.”
“I don’t follow.” There was obviously more to the story.
After a long pause Mary placed her hands on my desk and spoke slowly and deliberately. “We carved those figures with chisels we borrowed from Mister Springer’s woodwork class.”
There was a momentary silence as I processed the information.
“You mean Mister Springer who is retiring in two day’s time.”
The poor girl just nodded gravely.
“Mary, listen,” I tried to sound like a father instead of a deputy principal. “It happened ten years ago. I’m sure he’s forgotten all about it.”
The next two days must have been a nightmare. Somehow Mary James managed to avoid Mr. Springer. But when a teacher retires there is an unwritten rule. You have to attend the farewell party.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” I addressed the overflow crowd. “After thirty years Barry Springer has decided it’s time to trade in the blackboard for a fishing rod.”
For the next half hour tributes flowed from ex students, ex teachers and even one from the mayor. Finally, the man of the hour rose to speak.
“What a lot of nonsense.”
Somehow Springer managed to sound warm and loving despite his natural gruffness.
“A wise man once said every teacher learns from his students.” He worked the room like a veteran. “Take that young man over there,” he said pointing to a soldier in uniform. “That’s Simon Garrick. Ten years ago they pulled him out of a wreck and told him he would never walk again. Well, look at him now.”
The room erupted with applause as the young man squirmed with embarrassment. Suddenly Barry Springer reached behind a chair and lifted a package onto the table.
“How many of you remember Barbara Fleming?” From the corner of my eye I watched Mary James turn pale. “Some years ago she told me about two girls who did unspeakable things to my shiny new chisels.”
Mr. Springer tore away the paper as the room erupted in laughter.
“Miss Fleming persuaded me to forgive those aspiring young students. She said, ‘Who knows? One day they might be famous.’”
Barry Springer held up a board which displayed two crossed chisels. He then crossed the room and handed Mary James the trophy.
“Mary, this is from the oldest to the youngest. Anyone who can create a thirty thousand year old carving has to be good. God bless you.”
As Mary wiped away tears of relief she noticed the writing at the bottom of the board.
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
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