A story about Teddy Stoddard and his teacher Mrs. Thompson

by Jelena
A boy standing in the garden by the bush

As we are all isolated in our homes due to the outbreak of the Corona Virus, I felt we might all enjoy a good, inspirational story to lift us up and brighten our day. Schools are closed, most of us work from home, and yet, willingly or not we take over the role of a teacher to our kids. I wanted to share with you a story about Teddy Stoddard and his teacher Mrs. Thompson that I’ve heard for the first time a few years ago when I watched a public lecture of Dr. Wayne Dyer.

A few weeks ago, when I was in Belgrade, I played this story about Teddy in audio form for my team, at the Novak Djokovic Foundation. I wanted to remind them how important it is the work we do, and how every teacher, every child, and every parent we reach with our work – will make a difference.

I am sharing this story with you now because I know it will strike a chord. During the worldwide lockdown due to Corona Virus, we are all forced to slow down, step back from our usual chores and stay home with our loved ones. Schools are closed, most of us work from home, and yet, we take the role of a teacher.

Take a moment to read this story about a little boy named Teddy. I am sure it will bring out the best in you.

Here it is:

There’s a story from many years ago that tells of an elementary school teacher whose name was Mrs. Thompson. As she stood in front of her fifth-grade class on the first day of school, she told her children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and told them that she loved them all the same. But that simply was not true, 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. His clothes were messy and he constantly needed a bath. Teddy could be unpleasant at times. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen and making bold X’s and finally putting a Big “F” on the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records. She put Teddy’s off till last. When she finally 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’s a joy to be around.” His second-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student and well-liked by his classmates. But he’s 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 has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn’t show much interest. His home life will soon affect him if 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 sometimes he even 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 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 explained how pretty the bracelet was while putting it on and then dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smell just like my mom used to.” After the children left, she cried for at least an hour.

On this very day, she quit teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic and instead she began to teach children. Mrs. Thompson began to pay close attention to Teddy as she worked with him. As time went on, 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. Despite her lie, he had become one of her teacher’s pets. A year later she found a note under the door from Teddy telling her that she was the best teacher he had ever had in his whole life.

Six years passed by and to her surprise, another note came from Teddy. He wrote that he had finished high school third in his class and that she was still the best teacher that he had ever had in his whole life. Four years later, another letter came, saying that while things had been tough at times, he stayed in school and stuck with it and that he had graduated from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the very best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life.

Four more years passed by and yet another letter came. This time, he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he had decided to go a little further. Again, assuring her that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. The letter was signed Theodore F. Stoddard MD.

The story doesn’t end there. There was one final letter that spring. Teddy said that he had met this girl and that he 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 his wedding, that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. She wore that bracelet, the one with the several rhinestones missing. She also made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together. After the wedding, they hugged each other as Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “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, “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.”

– Author: Elizabeth Silance Ballard 1974. HomeLife Magazine, work of fiction

“To teach is to learn, and teacher and learner are the same”

A Course in Miracles, Textbook for teachers

While reading “A Course in Miracles” I came across this very interesting and important quote about teachers and students in the textbook for teachers. It basically says that those roles are never separate, and on top of it, we were never given a choice whether we will be students or teachers in life.

To teach is to demonstrate. From your demonstrations, others learn, and so do you. The question is not whether you will teach, for in that there is no choice.

A Course in Miracles, Textbook for teachers

We are both teachers and students from the moment we were born. And the act of giving goes both ways, not just from teacher to student.

With our actions, deeds, and thoughts we are showing to the world who we are, what we believe in and stand for, what we think of ourselves and others, and those are all teaching acts that are equally important for us and others.

Our teaching and learning never stops, not even when we sleep.

Parents = Teachers + Students

We have given life to a human being. The one who will day by day with his thoughts and acts make this world different in some way.

One day, we will be telling our grandchildren a story:

“Once upon a time, there were no people on the streets. Nothing was moving. No kids were allowed to go out to playgrounds. Schools were closed. No parents were allowed to go to work. Only one person was allowed to go out to buy food because outside of our homes was an invisible threat to our lives… Mr. Corona Virus. We used that time for….”

Now, it’s up to us how we will use our time with our kids. One thing is for sure – we can make a difference as a teacher by choosing love, understanding, generosity, positivity, kindness, laughter, encouragement, and joy. And our kids are making a difference for us, too.

We were given a gift of time with them.

While I’m writing this blog today, I am feeling so much gratitude as I’m understanding more and more that we were all given beautiful roles of witnesses and saviors of this time.

The biggest transformation for the whole planet is happening right now in our homes. We are starting to appreciate the moments of quiet and solitude more; moments with our family and friends; we are raising our knowledge and consciousness as now we have more time to expand our interests; we are learning to appreciate how big and important we all are.

How each one of us is part of a whole and how everything we do leaves a mark.

We can wake up from this experience with much more compassion and gratitude. The union and love we experienced and practiced during the lockdown with our family and friends, we can spread past the walls of our homes into the world.

How did you like the story about Teddy Stoddard? How are you spending your time during the lockdown? Have you realized yet how important you are?

Much love to all of you! Thank you for reading my blog,

Jelena

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13 comments

Craig Woods April 26, 2020 - 2:15 pm

Thank you for the blog Jelena, this was the first time I’d heard this story. It was very moving. I think it’s important, especially if you’re what society defines as a teacher, to have a beginners mind at all times. Our behaviour, example teaches more than our words do─action is the true language of physical reality.

How easy it is to overlook the past of people when we perceive them through the scope of our own pain. A broken heart bleeds on others if we’re not careful. The current world situation has brought out the best in some and the worst in others and quite frankly─I believe the news is purposely striking fear into people making them more susceptible to the disease.

I’ve defined this coronavirus situation in such a way: Yes, its heartbreaking as many have and are still losing their lives, but our civilisation, I feel, is taking a breather before we can make that quantum leap, the next step in our evolution─we need this, even though it hurts right now. I’m spending my time honing in on my skillsets, such as writing, drawing, learning Japanese language and of course, practising heart coherence and meditation.

I’ve also rewritten my book The Labyrinth, the new version will be out very soon. I realised that I rushed releasing the initial copy─it wasn’t ready but it’s so much better now and I’m very excited for it to come out. It was nice hearing from you and seeing what you and BROVAK are doing via the Instagram lives, I know you have so many followers that it’s easy to overlook my comments but its no biggie. Keep shining guys.

─Craig Woods

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Jelena April 29, 2020 - 9:07 pm

Thanks for your kind message and for keeping me up to date with your growth and work Craig!

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Padma April 27, 2020 - 3:50 pm

Dobar Dan Jelena! Hello! (trying my Serbian phrases lol) – I have read this Teddy Stoddard story before – most in the field of education would have more than likely – but always so inspiring to read and your blog which you have written so beautifully amplifies this message below….so wonderful to read this blog post on a Monday morning:)) Mnogo Vam Hvala:))
“We are both teachers and students from the moment we were born. And the act of giving goes both ways, not just from teacher to student.”

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Jelena April 29, 2020 - 9:09 pm

My dear Padma, always so kind and carrying. Glad I could remind you of the story about Teddy and spice it up a bit with some of my thoughts 🙂 Much love over to you!

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Julie April 27, 2020 - 4:49 pm

(I had left a previous comment but the website crashed so I’ll have a second attempt haha)

I was saying – I’m not a parent but this story can also be a very good reminder for all of us, teachers (the ones standing in the classrooms because I believe we all are teachers) to never forget about all the feelings of our audience. But sometimes with the pressure we have from the top, the stress, being overwhelmed at work and also by what’s going in our lives, I have to say …. it can be difficult. However, now that I’ve got more experience and that it’s been 7 years I’ve been teaching as a qualified teacher in the classroom, things are easier and emotional intelligence is here, 95% of the time.

I have a pretty touching story about one of my students a few years ago. She had lost interest in school but I had managed to somehow keep her interested in French, I wasn’t sure how I did but I did.
At the end of the year and before her exam, she gave me a goodbye card and she wrote that my energy and belief in her had kept her motivated and that she wanted to get a good grade for me to be proud of her. I was already so proud of her but her words really moved me and deeply touched me.
Two months later, she got an A at her French exam and got to the uni she had first targeted.
I am still so proud.

x

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Jelena April 29, 2020 - 9:12 pm

Your energy is blowing my mind Julie, each time I see you – you shine. No wonder your students are inspired! Love the story you shared. You are right, it is always the pressure of time that robs us off meaningful moments with people who surround us… But then, time is just an illusion they say. If we don’t bring energy to the time we have, time means nothing. And yes – Emotional intelligence is an absolute key for human relationships and it affects everything!
Thank you for a lovely comment!!!

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Elena April 29, 2020 - 6:12 am

Such a wonderful, inspiring story that teach us so many things. We definitely shouldn’t rush with our judgment, it can cost us, but also we could hurt someone. At the end of the day, like you said, we are all students in this life, and only thing that we should constantly keep doing is working on ourselves, thriving to be the best version of ourselves.
Hvala na neizmernoj dozi motivacije❤️

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Jelena April 29, 2020 - 9:12 pm

Thank you, hvala hvala hvala!!!!!

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Laura April 29, 2020 - 9:15 am

Hello Jelena ! You made my day! A very interesting and touching story !As you mention in your article, we should benefit from this period to spend quality time with our family, to reconnect to ourselves, to change our scale of values and to share with the beloved ones precious moments. I was sad at the beginning with this situation but soon I realised that it’s a good opportunity for us all to reevaluate our lives .
I am totally involved in the process of teaching and learning. I am among those who strongly believe that the learning process is a lifetime process. In fact I am a teacher and I love my job, I spend time with my children, I am their friend, confident and sometimes I myself become a student of theirs.
I admire you a lot, I watch your husband’s admirable matches and hope we all overcome this period in good condition, bothe mentally and physically.
Best wishes,
Laura

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Jelena April 29, 2020 - 9:14 pm

How lovely that this story also touched so many teachers. I’ve been getting tons of emails from teachers around the world who follow my blog and they’ve been all very inspired by this story! It warms my heart to know we have wonderful people working with our children!

Thank you, Laura, for supporting my family! Much love,
Jelena

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Tanya Maher April 30, 2020 - 8:32 pm

Waaaaaaaaa!!!! Wet face and full heart, reading this xxx

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Kristina May 2, 2020 - 9:27 am

Hi Jelena,

Thank you for sharing such an inspirational story! It shows us how the power of belief and care can transform a person to become a better version of themselves. It also reminds us that we can be both students and teachers in our relationships with people and that we are constantly learning as we move through life. I want to share with you a true story from the first class I ever taught last fall. In the college-level class I was teaching, one of my students was not performing well, he took longer than all of the other students to complete his exam, and was demotivated and not showing up to class. Since I am very close to the age of my students and still remember my own college experience, I could recognize that he was acting out. I was convinced of how intelligent he was when he submitted the writing portion of a class activity one day. So, I did a little experiment there. During the second exam, he still took longer to complete than other students. I could see that he was anxious, his face was red, and when I asked whether he needed more time to complete the exam, he couldn’t express his thoughts clearly. I decided to give him all of the time needed to complete the exam, even though that might not have been the most ethical decision. He completed the exam in my office taking half an hour longer than anyone else but got a better result than in the first exam. He started showing up to class again, completing all of his homework on time, and participating in class. And, on the final exam, he had the highest score in my class and one of the highest scores overall among all of the students taking the class in other sections. I believe he made only a single mistake and had an almost perfect score. When all of this was over, he thanked me that I was teaching the course and that I believed in him. When this happened, that same day when I went back home, I cried a bit because it truly showed me that kindness and love toward a human-being are powerful. I am so happy for my student and I am happy that I have been able to recognize his talent and he has proved me right. Thank you again for the beautiful story!

I look forward to reading other blog posts from you! 🙂

Much Love,

Kristina

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Daniel May 21, 2020 - 1:17 am

I would like to thank you for sharing this. At my high school graduation and Baccalaureate (at that time my school held both at the same time), the pastor giving the Baccalaureate address told this story. That date was May 20, 1990. I had purposed in my heart that if I am ever in a position to give a speech to graduates I would share this story. At the beginning of this year, I was approached by the Baccalaureate committee (I now am a pastor) and was asked to give the address, the date was going to be May 7th and I knew I wanted to share this story. I searched the internet and came upon various accounts of the story and then Covid-19 hit hard. Everything was getting shut down and cancelled, among which was Baccalaureate. I figured this year was shot and next time I’m asked I would be ready. Our state started re-opening with outdoor gatherings limited to social distancing. The Baccalaureate committee and the students wanted to do an outdoor service and they asked if I would give the address. After being assured every step was taken to protect everyone (it was outside, people stayed in their cars, I would be the only one using the mic, etc.) I agreed. I started searching and the first one I went to was this site and I noticed you just posted this recently. I was able to tell this story to the students as I had made a promise to myself on that May 20, 1990. Oh and the date I gave the Baccalaureate address…May 20, 2020, exactly thirty years after it was shared with me, I was able to share it with others. Thank you for posting this.

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