Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sometimes, it's Not the Packaging...

Pin It Sometimes greatest gifts come in the most unexpected of packaging…

I walked back to my desk on Monday of this week to pick something up, and that’s when I saw the note. It sat there, inconspicuously, like a secret message passed from a friend back from when I was still in school.

I glanced at it and saw the writing on the front, claiming that it was from my ‘silent student’. According to the message, it was to be read only during the Christmas break…not while we were still in school.

I slipped the note onto the shelf behind my desk and there it lay, catching my eye every now and again. However, it was more a mild curiosity than anything else.

It was later that afternoon that package arrived, it silently appeared on my desk as if placed there by Hogwart’s house elves. It lay, unassumingly, wrapped in a sheet of notebook paper. The handwriting—5th grade chicken scratch—was the exact same as on the note which had mysteriously appeared earlier during the day.

The message on this little package was clearly written: OPEN IT.

However, the bell had just rung, indicating that lunch recess had come to an end. So as my class filtered into the room, I set the package aside and began to teach.

The parcel lay on my desk throughout the day, not moving or drawing attention to itself in any way. Near the end of the afternoon, one of my students—I’ll call him Joey—approached me and asked if I’d opened any of my gifts yet. He glanced over to my desk where a few neatly wrapped boxes and bags lay.

I replied that I hadn’t.

He nodded, looked as if he were about to say something, then appeared to change his mind.

He walked away.

Throughout the rest of the day Joey stole glances to my desk, and the package that was wrapped so diametrically unlike than any of the others there.

When he left at the end of the day he wished me a good evening, glanced at the desk one final time, and then ushered himself from the room.

I began to correct assignments, enter scores, and clean up the messes left behind from 29 little people. As I passed my desk, the small haphazardly wrapped gift caught my eye.

Overcome with curiosity, I picked it up. It was light and flexible…whatever was inside wasn’t very heavy.

I carefully pulled away one side of the wrapping, that’s when I saw the tie.

It was ugly—probably something from this boy’s dad’s closet, or one he found at the local thrift store.

I cringed as I looked at the gaudy pattern that—in the gray parts—made it appear to be filthy. You see, I’m very particular of the ties I wear four of the five days of the week, and this one wouldn’t have made the list in a million years.

It was truly and awfully horrific. The pattern of it made me want to vomit…it was a tie throwback from yesteryear.

The tie remained on my desk as I packed up and went home.

That night, thoughts about that tie kept coming back to my mind…again and again I thought of it. I knew who’d given it to me…it was but obvious from his less-than-guarded inquiries throughout the day.

I had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I should wear that tie the next day to school. I brushed this feeling aside, but it kept returning…like an unwelcomed visitor during the holidays.

When I awoke the next morning, I finally decided that I’d wear the tie; however, I didn’t do this willingly. I had to practically force myself to put on my white shirt and black slacks. I felt frustrated because I wanted to wear a pair of khakis and a button-up shirt…this would have been far more comfortable ensemble than wearing my ‘suit’ as my students called it. As I thought of wearing that monstrosity back in my classroom, I felt myself settling into a bad mood. It was an ‘old man’ tie and I hated it…in fact, I even decided to take along another tie ‘just in case’ I didn’t feel that I could stomach wearing that one the entire day.

When I finally arrived at school I put the tie on.

I loathed the thing.

When the bell rang nearly an hour later, my students came into the classroom—and as we went over the language lesson for the morning, Joey’s eyes were riveted to the tie I wore…through my peripheral vision, I could see him staring at the tie intensely. He did this all morning long. Every time I went to help him with something, he’d gaze for a few seconds at the tie with a mesmerized look in his eyes.

I was can’t express how glad I was that I’d decided to wear it.

Fast forward to today…the students left for their holiday break at 12:30. When everyone was gone, I began entering grades and organizing assignments for nearly an hour. As I set something on the shelf behind me, I saw the note from Monday morning.

I opened it.

For those of you who may have difficulty reading the scrawl it says:

Dear Mr. Z,

I’m your silent student ‘Joey,’ I wrote this Journal so you can cry tears of joy. I just wanted to say that you’re the best teacher I have ever had. I like It when you tell jokes. I know you don’t know me veary much but I like you because you make school fun. So that’s what I wrote this so Merry Christmas Mr. Z!!!!!!

On the back it read:

P.S. go on facebook on Christmas and find a video that has a Lego guy on That’s my video.

I sat gazing at this note for quite some time.

Words cannot adequately describe the feeling that washed over me. It was a feeling like watching the first snowfall of the year as the silvery flakes tumble from the heavens; it was the feeling you get when the music rises at the end of the movie, and you realize that everything is going to be okay and everyone is going to live happily ever after; it was the feeling you get when your niece or nephew gives you a hug and tells you that you mean the world to them.

It now rolls on to nearly 6:00 and I still sit in my classroom as the hours trudge onward and the skies outside became dark, I look at that tie again.

This tie is one of my favorites…it’s beautiful and I couldn’t have asked for anything better from my student at Christmastime. You know what? Sometimes the greatest of gifts come in the most unassuming of packaging…


Kristina P. said...

This seriously gave me chills. You are one of the good ones.

Joan said...

Wonderful! =)

Jamie said...

Isn't it amazing how the intent of the gift can outweigh the actual value of the gift? What a wonderful student and he's indeed blessed to have you as a teacher. Keep up the good work. :)

ashleestout said...

Jason, thanks for writing this story, it's one I will always remember and cherish. It brought tears to my eyes. Your amazing, I wish my boys could learn from you in 5th grade. MERRY CHRISTMAS! See you soon!!! yahoo!

Kalei's Best Friend said...

I can imagine how touched u The tie is not that bad.. Its unique to the pt. where its cool... its abstract and granted its not a so called safe tie.. every male should own a tie that is different- don't u think?

MG Atwood said...

Great story. You never know what a difference you make in a child's life. May this note and gift give you the lift to keep doing what you do for many years. Merry Christms

Mr. Hughes said...

So, how come you get to have all the awesome experiences? Oh yeah, it's 'cause you are SO awesome! :) What a wonderful experience. Thanks for sharing and inspiring us all.

Mindy said...

Wow! What an experience! I'm glad you listened to that "nagging feeling". What a difference you make! Thanks for sharing. Hope your holiday break is great.

Lydia said...

How tender. Thanks for sharing! I think that tie is one of those so-ugly-it-comes-back-around-to-awesome ties.

mindye said...

This made me happy :)

Cheryl said...

Beautiful. Thanks for making a difference one kid at a time.

Mamma has spoken said...

Ah love found in an ugly tie, what a beautiful story!

Noora said...

I have been a follower of your blog for a while now but never commented until today..your post is so beautiful it just made me cry..I am no 4th class student but I am a teacher and mother of a child... the post stirred something inside of me..I dont know what exactly..but it did..maybe its your ability to recognize love even when it has "a not so pleasant" face, maybe something else...thanks for all you do, Noora from Saudi Arabia!.

Rachel said...

Year and year and many moons upon many moons ago, my mother was given a hideous orange necklace with matching clip on earrings! To go with this get up, she was also given an umbrella with polka dots by one of my older sisters. She proudly wore those earrings and necklace and used the umbrella. We all joke and laugh about it still today. Ugly doesn't begin to describe. It's what parents do! And to these kids, you are a parent figure in their lives.

Patti said...

My student's never cease to amaze me & your story is like some of mine. I was filled with happy thoughts & warmth as I read about "Joey's" gift & remember those of my Christmas' past --- knowing who they came from & the intent in which they were given makes even the worst days better!
Merry Christmas!

tammy said...

Best thing ever. Reminds me of a man in my old ward in UT. His kids would make him a paper tie every Father's Day, and he'd wear it proudly to church that Sunday.

I think I gave that same tie to my dad in the 80's. Just think of it as retro.

Karen Peterson said...

This story really got to me. If you ever have a day where you wonder if you're doing a good enough job as a teacher, you should come back and read it.

Connie said...

I've always thought that you are a teacher who really cares about his students. Wearing an ugly tie proves it!

Great art work on "Joey's" letter.

Merry Christmas, Mr. Z!

msprimadonna67 said...

What a beautiful story-I'm so glad you wore the tie : )

A Lark said...

Darn! that was the same tie I bought you! Guess I'll have to go exchange it for some groovy polyester pants you can wear to work... (:

Pedaling said...

when you know the whole story...the gifts looks so good.

Richard & Natalie said...

The whole story changes the way I see that tie now. Can you imagine if you hadn't worn it?
Thanks for being such a good example in so many ways.
Merry Christmas, TF.

Mel said...

I've caught up with a few of your posts, especially the best of 2011, and I still don't know how this one didn't make the cut. It is by far my favorite. It made me cry. I love ugly ties. I got a rubber band, used eraser and a broken McDonald's toy for my birthday last year. I loved it.

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