Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
Teachers come in all shapes and sizes; tall, short, large, small, young, old, male, and female. They vary in ethnicity as well as religious preference. Some teach in elementary, middle or high school, while others are called Professors in College. Then there are those who somehow manage to blend both family and classroom by teaching their children at home. To all of you, we pay tribute.
Today is the first day of school in our area. Many awoke early in anticipation of beginning a new year of educating our children to the best of their ability. They also find themselves faced with the challenges that come with such a huge responsibility.
Some Teachers will have a few students who are as bright as the morning sun and excel beyond your wildest dreams, while others struggle with the simplest of lessons. Balancing the learning curve is only half of the battle.
Some will find themselves face to face with a child or many children who did not have a proper breakfast or adequate rest for a day of learning. Some of those children have a very difficult home life and find the safety of school to be their only refuge. Some look to you, their Teacher, as a safe haven for a few short hours.
I was once one of those children who looked to her teachers for help and guidance, and was blessed with a few golden nuggets along the way. Mr. Hoffman was one such golden nugget.
It was the sixth grade. In preparation for middle school, we were given three different classrooms to navigate back and forth. Mr. Hoffman was my math Teacher.
Mr. Hoffman was an incredible teacher, who, sadly, would not be allowed to teach in the same manor today. He was in his late sixties and balding. He dressed rather frumpy and chewed tobacco. Yes, he chewed in the classroom and even had a cup in his desk drawer he used as a spittoon! It makes me giggle just thinking about it!
Another giggle is the way he handled a couple of boys who were the trouble makers of the class. Hold on to your hats for this one. One of the ways these two boys would disrupt the class was by asking to go to the bathroom quite often. When he asked them to “hold it” they would insist they couldn’t. One day, after growing weary of yet another bathroom request, Mr. Hoffman, without saying a word, simply handed each boy a rubber band. Neither boy asked to go the bathroom again for the remainder of the school year. The rest of us were chastised for our uncontrollable laughter. To this day, a smile comes to my face when I think of it.
Saying I was less then competent when it came to math would be an understatement. Math, to me, was a mystery. Yes, I could add, subtract, multiply and divide, but anything out of the realm of simplicity was out of my league. Fractions? Nope. Not my forte.
Mr. Hoffman started the year off by dividing the class into three segments; very intelligent, moderately intelligent, then the clueless, like me. He didn’t label us that way, but we all knew it just the same.
He began doing chalk board drills with various math problems in order to divide us into each segment. Winners continued on, while losers sat down. The more I failed, the worse I felt. Thankfully, the humiliation didn’t last long. Mr. Hoffman began teaching and handing out different assignments for each segment. For those of us in segment three, our homework was not as daunting as those in the other segments.
Mr. Hoffman was a fan of competition. Each Friday we would compete within our segment at the chalkboard. Whoever won in each segment would then have the opportunity to compete with the winners in the other segments. The ultimate winner would get a prize; small bag of candy.
The winners and losers differed each week, but the competition kept us all on our toes. Everyone wanted the ultimate prize!
Even though I was one of the least successful in the beginning of the year, I looked forward to the challenge each Friday. The first time I won in my segment was amazing! Winning once was like fuel to my studying fire! Each week was a little different than the week before. One week I’d do well, then the next not so much, but I was determined to do my best.
Mr. Hoffman had a way of making each of us feel good about even the smallest accomplishment. He praised the little things, which gave me encouragement and made me want to make him proud.
Toward the end of the school year, I had shown much improvement. What was nearly impossible in the beginning of the year was now a mere problem to solve. Then, I did it. I not only won in my segment, I won the whole competition!
I will never forget that moment. Mr. Hoffman called me over to his desk. He stood, with the treasure in his hand. His words still echo in my head. “Toni, I have never been more proud to give any student a bag of candy. Congratulations.”
Tears sting my eyes as I recount that moment for you. Mr. Hoffman probably never knew what he meant to me then or even to this day. I never ate that candy. It was a trophy to be looked at during many, many difficult days to come. It was, and still is, a reminder that I can overcome what seem to be insurmountable odds. Thank you Mr. Hoffman!
To all of the Mr. Hoffman’s out there, who work tirelessly to teach and encourage young hearts and minds, we pay tribute to you today. May this school year be a blessing to you and your students.
Dear Father in heaven, today we thank You for teachers and for giving them the gifts of patience and understanding. Thank You for those who take their jobs seriously as the molders and shapers of young minds. Please bless them for their tireless work as they follow many unnecessary guidelines during the teaching process. Please give them strength to see the day through even when it gets long. Thank You for the Mr. Hoffman’s of this world. In the matchless name of our Lord, Savior and Friend, Amen.
In His embrace,