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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Purposefulness (Purpose in Life) (05/25/06)

TITLE: The Last Day
By James Clem


It’s the last day of school. The kids have counted down the days to summer and so have I - for an entirely different reason. I was born to be a teacher.

Nothing compares to that moment when a child suddenly understands a new idea. That instant in time when the frustrated frown and furrowed eyebrows transform into an expression of pure innocent delight. When their eyes widen and their mouth drops open, something inside of me ignites with pleasure. Often it’s a fleeting glimpse. Moms and dads may hear about it later, but they miss seeing that rapturous expression. What a privilege it is for me to share in those priceless awakenings.

I was only six years old the first time I saw this wondrous, blossoming effect. I had been just sitting at my desk reading quietly like we’d been told to do, when suddenly my first grade teacher, Mrs. Wilson, called my name. My head snapped up, wondering what I had done this time.

I walked slowly up to her desk; my heart was racing and my hands were sweating. I had no idea what I had done. Mrs. Wilson was surrounded by students asking questions about one thing or another. She had an anxious look on her face which puzzled me; it wasn’t the stern visage I had expected.

Looking back, I always point to that fateful moment as the one that set my life on a breathtaking journey of discovery. Mrs. Wilson gently took one of my hands in hers and asked if I would try and help a boy who was struggling with his homework.

For a moment, I just stood there. I don’t know if I even said anything or not. I didn’t know what to do. No one had ever asked me to do anything like that before.

Being just six years old, I of course did whatever my teacher told me to do. I went over to his desk. The boy’s name was Jasper White, I guess I always will remember it. He was working on his math; there were markouts and erasures all over the page, and in one spot he had rubbed a hole clean through the paper. He seemed to be on the verge of crying.

I mumbled something like “Do you need some help?” His eyes conveyed a message of complete frustrated helplessness. I looked over his paper and not one question was right. I looked over at Mrs. Wilson hoping for some kind of reprieve, but she was helping other students and not looking at me.

I’ve always loved numbers. They’re the most logical thing in the world to me. I had some jellybeans in my pocket. I don’t know how I knew to do this, but I pulled out a handful and counted them out into groups. I pointed to one group and asked Jasper how many were in the group. He guessed four. He might as well have said “giraffe.” The word meant nothing to him.

I helped Jasper most of the morning. I was very patient with him although I didn’t know it at the time. Slowly Jasper began to grasp the concept of counting and adding.

As lunch break came closer, I pointed to one group of three jellybeans. Jasper hesitated but confidently said there were three. I pointed to a single jellybean and he said "one." Then I carefully combined the two piles emphasizing three plus one is how many? Jasper stared at it for a long moment. And then, for one second of eternity, the world stopped turning and understanding blossomed across his face. He shouted “four” making everyone in the whole class glance over at us. I cringed and looked at Mrs. Wilson, knowing for sure I was in trouble again.

She had an odd look on her face that I couldn’t understand. And Jasper did too. His eyes were wide and his mouth was open with the biggest smile he could manage. The next thing I knew, he had thrown both arms around me. The whole class began to cheer although none of them really knew what was going on.

It’s the last day of school. My children will soon be going home for the summer. I miss them already.

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This article has been read 1475 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Kevin Kindrick06/01/06
Oh, this is great. I love the imagery, the thoughts, the insight. Technical things aside, this is just plain a great story. I'm honestly not sure what else I can say, I'm just sitting here grinning (could it be that moment of unnderstanding?)
Anyway, thank you.

God bless,

Joanne Malley06/02/06
Sweet, wholesome story! It sounds like your main character recognized her purpose early on. Nice job. :)
Jen Davis06/03/06
What a wonderfully sweet and touching story! A pleasure to read and funny too: “He might as well have said “giraffe.” How awesome that one life can go on to touch so many. Great job!
Amy Michelle Wiley 06/03/06
What a delightful story! I've also experianced times when I was able to say something to make a difficult thing clear to another.
Venice Kichura06/03/06
Excellent writing & straight from the heart. Thank God for you all called by God to be teachers.
Maxx .06/05/06
Nice job and a good read. I've always wondered about what a teacher feels with summer coming! Now I know! Good writing!
Jan Ackerson 06/05/06
This was exactly what I needed to read today--I'm a teacher, and it has been a stressful year, and I've lost that wondrous feeling to some degree. But you're absolutely right--it's what keeps us going. Teaching is the best!

Oh, and really good writing, by the way. Pulled me right along.
Edy T Johnson 06/05/06
Oh, you made me cry over this story of a precious boy finding his purpose in life! Coming from a family of teachers, I will have to add this to my "favorites" and share it with them. This is a genuine masterpiece. I just love it. Thank you so much!
Rita Garcia06/05/06
Teaching children is a special gift! Love this story. Great entry.
Debra Brand06/06/06
God certainly puts His marks on little children and leads them to His path. Thanks for this story that emphasizes a calling. Well written.
Suzanne R06/07/06
Beautiful. The teacher that recognized the gift of teaching in the narrator, the story with the jelly beans, the way that he became a teacher himeself - lovely.

If I were a child, the jelly beans would never have stayed in my pocket, let alone for a whole morning, but perhaps that's not true for all children!

Well done.
Jessica Schmit06/08/06
Jim, I am SO proud of you!!! What an honor! Congrats buddy!
Rachel Rudd 06/08/06
Wow, I have tears in my eyes. I didn't read this until after the winners were announced. You definitely deserve to win! This is wonderful, awesome. I am a teacher....the way that you describe the heart of a teacher is just awesome. Thank you so much for this! I am going to share this with all of my teacher friends!
Sherry Wendling06/08/06
Congratulations! I love the way your ending zipped me back to the present, leaving a lifetime of yet unwritten stories wrapped around my heart. So well-deserved!
Edy T Johnson 06/08/06
Congratulations, James! I am so delighted to see this story in top place. I just love it! Thank you for writing this for us to hold in our keepsakes.
Crista Darr06/08/06
What a wonderful story! I'm inspired to practice more patience in homeschooling as I watch for that "rapturous expression" when they finally understand. I'm thankful for those moments. Truly, an inspirational piece. Thanks.
Debbie OConnor06/09/06
Congratulations! This is AWESOME. I have tears in my eyes. This was the perfect entry for purposefulness. I'll bet you are a GREAT teacher and that your kids love you (even when they don't show it). God bless you for your faithfulness to your calling.
Marilyn Schnepp 06/25/06
Absolutely...what can I say? It is awesome, terrific, touched me to the core of my being, and yes...had to blow my nose and wipe the tears from my eyes. Great piece of artistic talent on paper. A Masterpiece. Kudos!