The Teacher and the Serviceman

I am a special education teacher in Mandeville, La.

I receved this email and so enjoyed….

One day a teacher asked her students to list the names of the other
students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between
each name.

Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about
each of their classmates and write it down.

It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment,
and as the students left the room, each one handed in the papers.

That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a
separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about
that individual.

On Monday she gave each student his or her list. Before long, the
entire class was smiling. “Really?” she heard whispered. “I never knew that
I meant anything to anyone!” and, “I didn’t know others liked me so
much,” were most of the comments.

No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. She never knew if
they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn’t
matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were
happy with themselves and one another. That group of students moved

Several years later, one of the students was killed in Viet Nam and
his teacher attended the funeral of that special student. She had never
seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. He looked so handsome, so

The church was packed with his friends. One by one those who loved
him took a last walk by the coffin. The teacher was the last one to bless
the coffin.

As she stood there, one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came
up to her. “Were you Mark’s math teacher?” he asked. She nodded: “yes.”
Then he said: “Mark talked about you a lot.”

After the funeral, most of Mark’s former classmates went together to
a luncheon. Mark’s mother and father were there, obviously waiting to
speak with his teacher.

“We want to show you something,” his father said, taking a wallet out
of his pocket. “They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought
you might recognize it.”

Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of
notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. The teacher knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things each of Mark’s classmates had said
about him.

“Thank you so much for doing that,” Mark’s mother said. “As you can
see, Mark treasured it.”

All of Mark’s former classmates started to gather around. Charlie
smiled rather sheepishly and said, “I still have my list. It’s in the top
drawer of my desk at home.”

Chuck’s wife said, “Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album.”

“I have mine too,” Marilyn said. “It’s in my diary.”

Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out
her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. “I carry
this with me at all times,” Vicki said and without batting an eyelash, she
continued: “I think we all saved our lists.”

That’s when the teacher finally sat down and cried. She cried for
Mark and for all his friends who would never see him again.

The density of people in society is so thick that we forget that life
will end one day. And we don’t know when that one day will be.

So please, tell the people you love and care for, that they are
special and important. Tell them, before it is too late

Find more of Kathy on Stacie’s article ADD/ADHD
Kathy Says:
As a special education teacher


5 thoughts on “The Teacher and the Serviceman”

    1. Thanks, Kathy, for that story. For our students, in this age of Technology,
      “digital-itis”, electronics, cells, TV, computers and all the other cyber & technological rigmarole that seem to place a distance between people, our students, our children, the age old emotions of wanting to belong, not being rejected and to be loved can never be overshadowed. That is especially important to keep in mind when some of our students are having a difficult time in the classroom…or just a bad day.

      1. I agree and sometimes students need practice with developing compassion, understanding and tolerance of others. I thought the writing activity was an excellent method of building self-esteem.

      2. Teaching in an elementary school with inclusion not only in the classroom but in the Special, less restrictive classes such as PE and Music, & addressing children with special needs as well as not neglecting the others, in the short space of 1/2 hour as part of our curriculum, is quite a challenge. We LOVE our Special Needs teachers, admire their patience, integrity, self-sacrifice and dedication. We Music Teachers look to them for counsel & advisement concerning special problems that crop up with certain students. I see such a calling in these teachers, like an anointing for the difficult work that is required to accomplish the standards and goals and INDIVIUAL planning for each child, the conferences, the phone calls the “events” that take copious amounts of time.
        God bless the teachers and God extremely bless you Kathy and those who have the love and calling to work with SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN.
        WE LOVE YOU!!!!

  1. When I was in high school I had a health teacher that made us do this activity. The teacher called them “warm Fuzzies”. She had us put them in a hat and each of us pulled out a warm fuzzy about someone else and read it out. Just a word of caution….High School students aren’t always “Warm and Fuzzy”. It may be a good idea to sort them first. There is always a joker!

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