69: Words of Wisdom

69: Words of Wisdom

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales

Words of Wisdom

Put your future in good hands—your own.

~Author Unknown

As I walked into the elementary school, looking down at my new black Mary Jane shoes, my stomach turned from the biscuit I had just eaten an hour earlier. My mother held my hand (which was comforting but embarrassing seeing I was in fifth grade) as we made our way to Mrs. Blackstone’s class. I was the new kid in town, enrolling in January which made it even worse. Desks had been assigned, rules established, friendships made and seats in the cafeteria taken. I wanted to be anywhere in the world but Fountain Inn Elementary School. I stood at Mrs. Blackstone’s door. It was made of solid wood with a tiny glass window at the very top. I couldn’t see in, but my mother could.

“Oh, Amanda, they look so nice! It’s a big classroom. Ready to go in?”

The decorated door was full of pictures of the kids just on the other side.

“Wait,” I pleaded. “Let’s look at these first,” pointing at the snapshots staring back at me.

My mom, always the optimist, “She’s cute, I bet she’d make a good friend!”

Her encouraging words fell on deaf ears. I knew I only had seconds to spare if I was going to make a run for it. Before I attempted the great escape, the wooden door abruptly opened to the singsong voice of Mrs. Blackstone, my new fifth grade teacher.

“We’ve been waiting on you!” she said in an unusually high voice. With a wink and a smile my mom tiptoed away and I was left standing center stage in front of an unimpressed group of students.

Over the next few days, Mrs. Blackstone made it her mission to find me a new best friend, enroll me in choir and give me the all-important dream job of hall monitor. During history lessons, when I slumped into my desk because I didn’t want to speak in front of the class (even when I knew the answer) she’d not only call on me but have me stand up to address my peers. She laughed at my awkwardness, like when I wouldn’t get in line to sharpen my pencil, even when my lead was broken, for fear of being embarrassed. Her silliness made me smile and eventually feel much more at ease in my new surroundings.

One spring afternoon, when the bell rang at 2:30 for children to meet their parents in the courtyard, Mrs. Blackstone asked me to stay after class.

“I’d like to speak with you, Amanda.”

My mind raced. Had I made a bad grade? Had I unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings?

“Are you enjoying your new school?”

She sat comfortably behind her desk, surrounded by pictures of her former students.

“I want to tell you something, between you and me, not to be shared with anyone else.”

“Okay.” My throat all of a sudden felt very dry.

With her eyebrows raised she said, “I see something special in you. The way you interact with others, the kindness that you show—I think you have great potential to be something very important.”

I listened intently, hanging on every word.

“I’ve been a teacher for over twenty-five years, I can see it. But you must believe it yourself. Confidence—Compassion—Common Sense. That’s what is important. Remember that and you’ll go far.”

She then hugged me and said, “See you tomorrow.”

Her singsong voice was music to my ears that day. I walked out of her class, not staring at my Mary Jane shoes, but looking straight ahead with my head held high. My teacher saw something special in me!

As an adult now, I recall those words often when I need them most. I later learned Mrs. Blackstone had that afternoon conversation with many of her students. I was blessed to have been one of them.

Mrs. Blackstone has gone on to impact and educate many lawyers, doctors, police officers, accountants, mothers, and like myself, teachers.

Not long ago, in the busyness of a spring afternoon, I sat down with a quiet, timid, ten-year-old. I looked into her eyes and repeated those words I’ll never forget, “I think you have great potential. You must believe in yourself. Confidence—Compassion—Common Sense. Remember that and you’ll go far.”

~Amanda Dodson

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