Archive for the ‘ Children ’ Category

The Story of Teddy Stoddard (Weekly Inspiration #19)

For all of you overly emotional saps (like me) out there, this story might entice a tear drop or two, so have a tissue ready.  This is a classic story that has inspired many teachers over the years, but we can all learn lessons from its message.  Enjoy!

There is a story many years ago of an elementary teacher. Her name was Mrs. Thompson. And as she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same.
But that was impossible, 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, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big “F” at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records and she put Teddy’s off until last. However, when she 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 is a joy to be around.”

His second grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is 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 and his home life will soon affect him if some 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Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school.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 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 which was clumsily wrapped in the 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 exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist.

Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.” After the children left she cried for at least an hour. On that very day, she quit teaching reading, and writing, and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children.

Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, 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 and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her “teacher’s pets.”

A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life. Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. 
He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer – the letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.

The story doesn’t end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he’d met this girl and 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 the wedding that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom.

Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.
They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me. 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. She said, 
”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.”

The power of encouragement is immense!  Here’s to all the parents, teachers, grandparents, and friends who find the lovable and bring out the best in all of us!

A New Life (Weekly Inspiration #13)

One of the four best friends I described in my post “The Friendship Compass” became a father for the second time yesterday!  Todd’s amazing wife Jessica brought all 8 pounds 1 ounce of Ian Patrick Zapata Lile into the world for his first day on the planet.

This week’s inspiration is dedicated to Jessica, Todd, their first son Luke, and Ian.

If children grew up according to early indications,
we should have nothing but geniuses.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Never will a time come when the most marvelous recent invention is as marvelous as a newborn child.
Carl Sandburg

The first cry of a newborn baby in Chicago or Zamboango,
in Amsterdam or Rangoon,
has the same pitch and key,
each saying, “I am! I have come through!  I belong!”
Carl Sandburg

Children are the anchors that hold a mother to life.

I love to think that the day you’re born,
you’re given the world as a birthday present.
Leo Buscaglia

A baby is an inestimable blessing and a bother.
Mark Twain

Loving a baby is a circular business, a kind of feedback loop.
The more you give, the more you get,
and the more you get, the more you feel like giving.
Penelope Leach

The best thing I’ve done?
Well, I’ve created four beautiful children.
You mean, other than that?
Donald Trump

A baby is born with a need to be loved – and never outgrows it.
Frank A. Clark

A baby usually wakes up in the wee-wee hours of the morning.

Which one is your favorite?

Congratulations Lile Family!

Proof People are Stupid (Weekly Inspiration #11)

I used to collect evidence that people are stupid.  I had two large file folders of stories about stupid people doing stupid things.  This was in the early 90’s when I first started teaching.  Then came youtube and the need to collect any more evidence vanished.

Youtube is the world’s largest collection of evidence that people are stupid..  Just type in “people falling”  or “stupid people”  and enjoy hours of amusement.  I recommend watching these videos with small children and saying “Never do that!”  every 2 minutes or so.  Great lessons for them to learn! Continue reading

Do You Believe In Ghosts?

One of my favorite memories of childhood is playing “Ghost” with my friend Erik.  We would get out the tinker toys and spend a great deal of time making special ghost killing weapons like the “Belly Button Grinder” and the “Ghost Grenade.”  When we had completed building our arsenal we would crawl under his bed to find an old rotary dial phone we used as a toy.  We would dial some special numbers and announce to the ghosts on the other end, “OK ghosts!  You can come over now!”  What followed was a ghost butt kicking of epic proportions.  We jumped from under the bed spinning, kicking, belly button grinding, and grenade launching.  Those poor ghosts never had a chance! Continue reading

Scary Questions

My colleague Todd Lile and I have started a new Blog at I wrote the following post for that blog but thought it fit well here too.  Check out our other blog and sign up for an email subscription.  That blog should get pretty good in the near future.  Here is the post: Continue reading

Kids and Guns

At the risk of being controversial, I want to talk a little about hand guns.  There is a lot in the news right now about the right to carry guns openly in coffee shops like Starbucks and even on college campuses.  Recently, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that the University of Colorado did not have the authority to ban students and visitors from carrying guns onto the campus.  What?

I spent some time reading up on some statistics for gun related violence in the United States.  What I read shocked me.  Some gun advocates make the claim that “guns don’t kill people but people kill people”.  I agree with that 100%.  People do kill people but who makes guns?  People.  So a gun just sits there waiting to do what it is made to do (hurt and kill).  Without a person it will do nothing.  However just the fact the gun is there, makes it more likely something will happen.  The Center for Disease Control reports that in 2000, there were 23,237 accidental shootings in America.  What?

Being a teacher I am interested in kids.  The numbers on kids and guns are even more scary!  The CDC reports that in 2006 3,184 children were killed by guns, while another 17,451 were shot with non fatal wounds.  Less than 3000 people died in the 9/11 attacks in 2001.  How much money, time and resources  have we spent trying to make our country, airports, and the rest of the world safe from other attacks like these?  Ask yourself which is more dangerous: an airline passenger with a container holding more than 3.5 ounces of liquid, or a gun in the hands of a child?  Which one of these do we spend more money on?  What?

Peggy Patten did some frightening research on children and guns and found that even after a week of intense education about guns, safety, and prevention 65% of children left alone to play in a room with a hidden gun, picked it up, played with it, pulled the trigger, looked down the barrel, etc. Unfortunately in real life, kids occasionally find real guns.  When they hurt themselves we can say it was not the gun but the child at fault.  But both the gun and the child were doing what they are meant to do.  A child explores.  A gun wounds or kills.

People make guns.  People make kids.  People make rules and laws that given them rights.  People make rules and laws to protect the members of their group or society.  People disagree about these rules and laws and make rationalizations for keeping these rules and laws even when they endanger, rather than protect, members of their group or society.  Guns do not kill people.  People kill people.  People make guns.    What?

Many Americans have died  protecting our rights and personal freedoms.  When an individual sacrifices his or her life in defense of these rights, we call that person a hero.    The Constitution gives us the right to carry guns and maybe this is a right worth fighting and even dying for.  But is it so important that we are willing to accept the steep price of innocent dead?  Is this individual right more important than the general welfare of the community?  Are we willing to say that the children, who die at the wrong end of a hand gun, are worth sacrificing to protect our individual freedom?  Does this make them heroes?  What?

Why We Should Play With Fire

Some of my best memories of childhood involve playing with fire with my friend Erik.  We burned and melted anything we could get our hands on!  If we couldn’t get our hands on anything to burn, then we lit our hands on fire!  We would pour rubbing alcohol or aftershave on our hands, give the lighter a flick, and then watch our hands glow for a few seconds before we would smother the flames and laugh.  Years later, when we were in high school we were still at it.  We invented a game where we would soak a tennis ball in lighter fluid, set it on fire and play “hot potato” catch.  I could go on and on with stories of creative ways we played with fire but the point is, I enjoyed this activity when I was 8 and I still enjoy it today.

I was watching a TED talk the other day and saw a talk that Stuart Brown gave on the importance of play.  He starts out by weaving an incredible story and showing some amazing photographs of a Polar Bear and a Husky playing together in an improbable encounter where it looks like the dog is about to become a meal. But they start rough housing and having a grand time together instead.  He goes on to discuss how play is important in brain development, how a lack of play is a common component in some serial killers, how play deprived rats are less adaptable and how play seems to have a biological importance just like sleep!

The most interesting point for me as a 38 year old who still loves to play (not just with fire) is his point that humans are the most playful of all creatures, and that we need to continue to play throughout our life-spans and not just when we are young.  Finally some validation!!    We need to dance, create, imagine, rough house, laugh, and invent games.

Just because we are adults does that mean we can’t build a fort out of blankets and furniture in the living room?  Does it mean we can’t dig out our old set of Lincoln logs and create our dream house?  Does it mean that we need to respect the awesome power of fire, and not ever use it for whimsical purposes just to “see if it will burn”?  I say no!  I say we all take a moment today to play with fire.  If you have children, gather up some matches and share some good bonding time together!

If not fire, then at least crank up the volume on your favorite music, play some air guitar and sing into a hairbrush.  It is good for you!!!  What is your play?