86: The Treasure Chest

86: The Treasure Chest

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales

The Treasure Chest

Teacher appreciation makes the world of education go around.

~Helen Peters

Working one late afternoon on a lesson plan we were to teach the next day, my teaching partner and I were startled by the sudden appearance in the doorway of a tall, lanky young man in an intimidating dark trench coat. His red, spike Mohawk caught our attention as well as his heavy-metal T-shirt. Then, he flashed that remarkable grin that told us it could only be Jacob. He had grown a bit since we last saw him and his demeanor was certainly different, but under that “tough guy” exterior, we both recognized the lost, insecure first grader we had taught and loved many years ago. Some children do not have the privilege of a nurturing family where unconditional love helps them survive the bumps of everyday life. Jacob was one of these children.

In the first grade, Jacob required constant reassurance and redirection from his teachers. He often was unable or unwilling to participate or cooperate in our classroom. As a first grade team, we shared the responsibility for not only Jacob’s education, but his social and emotional needs as well. He quickly became one of our favorites. The extra attention manifested itself in a more confident student who began to willingly engage in the process of learning.

Even after Jacob left first grade, he would return year after year, willing to give up his recess time to volunteer in our classrooms. He simply needed that unconditional acceptance. Family circumstances eventually took Jacob to another state, and with heavy hearts we thought we would never see him again. We were worried how life would treat Jacob. So, we felt great relief and joy to see him standing in the doorway.

Jacob’s eyes darted around my classroom. What was he looking for? Suddenly, with a laugh, he asked, “Do you still have that treasure chest for your students?” I reached under my desk to pull out the old treasure chest. Jacob began digging for his favorite candy. We all sat down for conversation over peanut butter cups and Smarties. Jacob must have eaten ten before he was finished. On the way out he gave us both a squeeze and a look of gratitude. His stomach as well as his emotional “bucket” were filled.

A classroom is more than four walls filled with textbooks. It should be a safe haven filled with unconditional love. It needs to be a place where children like Jacob can return year after year for a refill of love and attention. Don’t we all need a trip to the treasure chest once in a while?

~Robin Sly with teaching partner Sherry Dismuke
2009 Idaho State Teacher of the Year
Elementary teacher, grade 1

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