From Chicken Soup for the Child's Soul

Two Good Teachers

On Monday, I smiled as Adam walked into my classroom carrying a big bag of guinea pig pellets.

“Squeaker is in his cage by the bookshelves,” I said. “Mrs. Stewart tells me that you take care of him.”

Adam looked away.

“She mentioned that you were going to build a maze for him. Do you still want to do that?” I continued. “You can if you like.”

Adam hadn’t made any effort lately to build the maze he had designed for Squeaker knowing that Mrs. Stewart wouldn’t be there to see it.

When Adam arrived at the cage, I overheard him whisper to Squeaker, “I bet you wish Mrs. Stewart hadn’t left,” as he stroked the guinea pig’s fur.

The next morning I instructed the class to spread out and make a circle so we could play Spelling Sparkle. Children spelled the week’s assigned words one letter at a time, going around in a circle.

“I don’t want to,” Adam said to Kyle as he put away his backpack. When it was his turn to spell, he messed up on purpose just so he could sit out.

Later that day, I walked over to Adam’s table and said, “Mrs. Stewart told me that you like to build things.”

“I used to,” said Adam.

“My husband likes to work with wood. Could you use some wood scraps to make that maze?” I asked.

“I don’t want to take care of Squeaker, and I don’t want to go to school here anymore!” he fumed. I patted Adam’s shoulder, but he pulled away.

During recess, I tossed a ball to Rachel.

“What a wonderful day to play catch! Who else wants in?” I asked.

“Not in a million years,” I heard Adam mumble. “I promised Kyle I’d play basketball,” Adam said. But I suspected he hadn’t really promised anything.

After recess, I asked the students if anyone would like to e-mail Mrs. Stewart. “Just type in your message, and at the end of the day, we’ll send them.” Everyone thought this was a great idea. “Not me,” said Adam.

That’s when I knew that Adam was really hurting. I was sure he had a lot of questions for Mrs. Stewart, such as, “Why did you have to go back to college?” But it seemed he was too sad and maybe even a little mad at her for leaving.

The next morning when Adam walked into class, I held up a big green envelope. “We’ve got mail from Mrs. Stewart,” I announced.

I let Carly open the envelope. There were photos of Mr. and Mrs. Stewart, their dog Petey, and their new home. Inside was a note that read:

Dear Children,

I miss you! I know Mrs. Ingalls is very lucky to have such a good class. I like my college studies very much. I think of you often and say a prayer for you every day.

Adam, please give Squeaker a carrot (but not celery) for me.

Mrs. Stewart

That afternoon during recess, it seemed to me that Adam wanted to be alone. He walked to the swings and sat down. Slowly, I wandered over and sat in the swing next to his. For a long time, both of us were quiet.

“I thought Mrs. Stewart would be my teacher all year,” Adam finally said as he dragged his feet in the sand, kicking up dust.

After awhile, I looked over at Adam and said, “People come in and out of our lives. And when that happens, new beginnings can be very hard. But Mrs. Stewart will never forget you, and I know you won’t forget her either.”

He blinked away a tear.

When the kids lined up after recess, I took Adam’s hand and led him into the classroom. I pointed to a pile of wood scraps and a large piece of heavy cardboard placed on a table at the back of the classroom. A big bottle of wood glue sat straight and tall.

Adam looked surprised. He took a deep breath, walked to his table, pulled the drawing he had made of the maze out of his red folder, and handed it to me.

Together, with the other children, we began building the maze Adam had planned.

While we worked, Adam suddenly looked up at me and said, “I’m lucky. I’ve had two nice teachers this year: Mrs. Stewart and you, Mrs. Ingalls.”

Ann Ingalls


Reprinted by permission of Robert Bernardi. ©2007 Robert Berardi.

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