58: Teaching the Teacher

58: Teaching the Teacher

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales

Teaching the Teacher

It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.

~Albert Einstein

The end of the year had finally arrived. The first year of my teaching career would be over in a matter of days, but I dreaded Awards Day. Although I had a class of exceptional students, I feared one student wouldn’t have an award. Brent just didn’t have the high averages of some of his classmates.

As I sat down and began looking over my grade book, I filled in the blanks on the award sheet for highest grade in each subject. Then, I proceeded to “A Honor Roll” and on through the list. When I began checking averages for “AB Honor Roll,” I knew Brent hadn’t made it yet. But while the nine-week honor roll was determined by the average of all grades for a quarter, the yearly honor roll was the average of the final grade in each class for the year. Maybe there was a chance.

Brent’s grades may have been considered average, but he was far from it. He was no quitter. If he failed a spelling test mid-week, by Friday, he would pass. If his math grade slipped a bit, he’d work to get it higher. Unlike the other students who would often attempt to “one up” one another, Brent’s only competition was himself, and his goal for the entire year was the AB Honor Roll.

With each report card, his face had fallen when he’d missed that elusive B average, and although he’d never made honor roll, he’d never stopped trying to reach that goal. Now, he had one last shot. I entered his final grades into the computer and averaged. It was a B! I checked again. Yes, it was a B.

His grades had gone up and down. When he focused harder on one subject, another slipped a bit. Overall, he had a B average.

Now, I couldn’t wait for Awards Day!

That May morning as I called out the highest averages in each subject, the students were excited, but there were really no surprises. They knew who would receive each award. Then came AB Honor Roll. I called Brent’s name. His eyes lit, a big grin split his face, and he jumped up and whooped. While everyone who got an award made me proud, when Brent came to get his certificate, I blinked back tears.

Until that moment, I was the teacher and he was the student, but the tables had turned. Little Brent had taught me a valuable lesson—while the individual things we do may not be exceptional, together they just might add up to something amazing. Many school years have come and gone since then. I don’t remember who had the highest math average that first year I taught, nor which student was my best speller, but to this day I still remember Brent and his amazing lesson in persistence.

~Lisa McCaskill

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