Are you making a difference?


As she stood in front of her primary 5 class on the very first day of school, she

told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her pupils and

said that she loved them all the same.

However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat,

was a little boy named Koko Bassey.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Koko the year before and noticed that he did not play

well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly

needed a bath. In addition, Koko 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 Koko’s off until last. However, when she reviewed his

file, she was in for a surprise.

Koko’s primary 1 teacher wrote, “Koko 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 primary 2 teacher wrote, “Koko is an excellent pupil, 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 primary 3 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.”

Koko’s primary 4 teacher wrote, “Koko is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest

in school. He doesn’t have many friends and he sometimes sleeps in class.”

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She

felt even worse when her pupils brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in

beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Koko’s.

His present 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.

Koko Bassey 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, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach

children. Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Koko. 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, Koko had become one of the

smartest children in| the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Koko

became one of her “teacher’s pets.”

A year later, she found a note under her door, from Koko, 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 Koko. He then

wrote that he had| finished secondary 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 the university with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she

was still the best and favorite teacher he had 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, Koko A. Bassey, MD.

The story does not end there. You see, there was yet another letter

that spring. Koko said he had 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 at the wedding in the place 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. Moreover, she made sure she was wearing the perfume

that Koko remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together. They

hugged each other, and Dr. Bassey 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, “Koko, 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.”

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