Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, so our first story explores gratitude, including my own gratitude for all those who so generously shared their stories – and for you, my readers.
But first there’s someone else I’d like to thank: David Clark Scott. He devoted 42 years to the Monitor and had just taken on a new role as cover story editor when he assigned the story to me. But he passed away the day it was due.
Ever supportive of his writers, Dave did some reporting of his own for the story. We wanted to share his final dispatch with you:
When fifth grade teacher Suzi Winterbottom needs a morale boost, she reaches for a green plastic box she keeps near her desk. Inside are keepsakes and thank-you notes from students that she’s collected over a decade of teaching.
This past spring, an unexpected thank-you note arrived for her at Mary K. Goode Elementary School in Middleborough, Massachusetts. The note was particularly timely because this was a rough year for Mrs. Winterbottom – and many other teachers.
“We went from being heroes during the pandemic to having parents tell us we’re not doing enough to help children make up for lost time,” she observes. Test scores show many students in the U.S. fell behind during the pandemic. Also, their social and communication skills had atrophied. “They’d forget to raise their hands. They’d blurt out answers,” Mrs. Winterbottom says. “It was exhausting.”
But then a letter came from a student who had been in her class six years ago when she taught third grade.
“At the time she was a new kid. Feisty. Too cool for school,” recalls Mrs. Winterbottom. One day, the student was fooling around during a test and knocked over a handmade glass container that had been a gift from Mrs. Winterbottom’s daughter. It shattered on the floor. The girl ignored it. She didn’t clean it up. She didn’t say, “I’m sorry.” Nothing.
The letter was a much-belated note of apology, and a recognition of Mrs. Winterbottom’s kindness during her first year in town. “You were definitely one of my favorite teachers from elementary school,” she wrote.
“It’s these little sparks of gratitude that renew the feeling of why I do this job,” Mrs. Winterbottom says. “It reminds you that the person they may present to you – stubborn, resistant, or just plain uninterested – well, it doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t recognizing the care that you’re giving to them.”
The letter has found a place in Mrs. Winterbottom’s green box of classroom treasures.