Johnny was at a wedding. He saw Mr. Clark, one of his high school teachers. Johnny said to him, “Do you remember me?”
Mr. Clark answered, “Not really. Who are you?” Johnny introduced himself.
“Ah, you were my student… third grade… you were my student. Wow! I haven’t seen you for so many years. How’s your life? What are you involved in?”
Johnny said, “I’m a teacher.”
“That’s wonderful!” said Mr. Clark. “What inspired you to become a teacher?”
“What inspired me to become a teacher was you”, Johnny continued.
Mr. Clark said, “Tell me, how did I inspire you to become a teacher?”
Johnny said, “I saw what an impact you had on me and I realized what an impact I could have on children and teenagers. I decided to go into education.”
Mr. Clark said, “So what type of impact did I have on you?”
Johnny went on to say, “One day, in between classes I stole a beautiful, expensive pocket watch from Fred, one of my classmates. It was his mother’s birthday present to him. Fred showed up after lunch break, telling you and the whole class that somebody had stolen his watch.”
Johnny continued, “I remember vividly how you addressed the class that afternoon asking that the watch be returned. I was too embarrassed to fess up and return the stolen watch.”
John went on to say, “You, Mr. Clark, you locked the classroom door and asked the class to line up and close our eyes. And you went from pocket to pocket. You came to my pocket and you found the watch and you gently pulled it out. You did not stop there. You continued, moving from pocket to pocket all the way to the end of the line. And you told us that it was OK for us to open our eyes.
You returned the pocket watch to Fred! On that day you saved my soul. You saved my dignity. You never said anything about the incident to anyone, not to Fred who was happy to get back the pocket watch, not to anyone, and most surprisingly, not even to me.”
John, with a hint of tears in his eyes, went on to say, “Wow this is what a teacher is. This is what a real educator is. This is what I want to do with my life.”
Mr. Clark, listening attentively, says, “That’s amazing, but truth be told, I don’t remember much of the story you just shared with me.”
John, curious, and wanting to learn, said, “But tell me Mr. Clark, you really don’t remember the story? When you see me and you hear my name? I’m sure you remember the story… that I stole the pocket watch! I’m sure you remember that unique and unusual ritual of lining us up and how not wanting to embarrass the ‘thief’, you asked everybody to close their eyes! You really don’t remember that I’m the person who stole the watch.”
And Mr. Clark said, “Actually I don’t. I don’t remember!”
“Why not? It’s a pretty dramatic story” Johnny said.
And Mr. Clark concluded, “As I moved from pocket to pocket my eyes were closed too.”
Source: Unknown. Retold as remembered when I first heard it.
What do you think? If you were the teacher in that classroom, how would you have acted? What would you have done differently?