In every teacher’s career, there is at least one student who shows outstanding potential, though not all are as obvious as one would imagine.
Mrs. Quarrel, the first-grade teacher at Pudmore Elementary, greeted her students as they entered her classroom on the first day of school. “Welcome! Welcome, students! Come in and have a seat,” she said cheerfully.
As each student took a seat at a desk of their choosing, Mrs. Quarrel immediately took notice of one child in particular, an awkward boy with disheveled hair and wrinkled clothes. She thought it odd that his parents would send him to school on the first day appearing in such a way.
As the boy took a seat at the back of the classroom, Mrs. Quarrel introduced herself to the students and began to call out attendance. The last name on the list was the awkward boy in the back, Zachary Winston.
As she called his name the first time, Zachary remained silent, though when she spoke a second time, Mrs. Quarrel made eye contact with the boy, and he raised his hand saying quietly, “here.”
Zachary could feel the eyes of the other children staring at him as if he were an outsider. The truth being, this was Zachary’s first day at Pudmore Elementary while most of the other students had known each other since Junior Kindergarten.
Mrs. Quarrel could sense Zachary’s anxiety and directed the students’ attention toward her instead. “Class,” she began, “today we are going to start by reviewing our spelling words. Can anyone tell me how to spell, horse?”
For twenty minutes, Zachary sat silently not participating at all, so Mrs. Quarrel tried a different tactic. She decided to make a game out of spelling words and had the entire class participate.
“Okay class, I am going to say a word, and whatever letter my word ends with, the next person will say a word that starts with that letter. For example, If I say apple, what letter does apple end with?” Half of the class raised their hands, and she chose one at random.
“E,” one of the girls in the front row called out confidently.
“Very good, Kaitlyn! Now Kaitlyn, give me a word that starts with the letter E.”
“Egg,” Kaitlyn replied.
“Excellent! Now,” pointing to the student next to Kaitlyn, “What does egg end with?”
The game continued until they reached Zachary. His word began with the letter, ‘F’. All eyes were once again on Zachary as he looked around nervously. Swallowing down the lump in his throat, he finally spoke. “Fracture,” he said.
Astounded by his choice, Mrs. Quarrel found herself momentarily out of sorts. Not many children at six-years-old would know what a fracture was. She decided to push him a little further.
“That is an excellent word, Zachary! Do you happen to know how to spell it?”
“F-R-A-C-T-U-R-E,” Zachary replied.
“Class, I would like you to give Zachary a round of applause.” They class clapped reluctantly.
As the day progressed, Mrs. Quarrel watched Zachary’s mannerisms. He seemed bright but wasn’t sure yet why he was so withdrawn.
During lunch period, Mrs. Quarrel returned to her classroom while the students were outside playing. When she entered, she spotted Zachary sitting quietly at his desk.
“Zachary why are you inside instead of outside playing with your friends?” she asked.
“They aren’t my friends,” he replied. “They don’t understand me.”
“I’d like to be your friend, if that’s okay with you,” Mrs. Quarrel stated with a smile upon her face.
Zachary looked into her eyes for a moment and Mrs. Quarrel felt as if she were looking into the eyes of someone who had already lived a full life.
“Okay, I guess so,” he responded.
“Thank you, Zachary. That makes me very happy. What are you working on?”
Zachary pulled the paper to his chest to hide its secret.
“It’s nothing,” he replied. “Just some doodles I was working on.”
“I would very much like to see them, if you don’t mind,” she said.
Hesitantly, Zachary lowered the sheet of paper to the desk. On it, was an incredible likeness of her that he had drawn from memory. Mrs. Quarrel felt a tear forming in the corner of her eye and quickly wiped it away.
“This is incredible, Zachary! Where did you learn to draw like this?”
“I don’t know. I just can. Nobody showed me how.”
“Do your parents draw?”
“No, my dad is a plumber, and my mom works at Walmart as a cashier.”
Mrs. Quarrel could not believe what she was witnessing. This child had a gift and she needed to encourage him to use it.
In the days to follow, Mrs. Quarrel gave Zachary special permission to remain inside for his lunch recess on the condition that he went outside with the other students during morning and afternoon recess.
While outside, Zachary sat in a corner while the rest of the children chased one another and threw balls around. However, one day when a stray soccer ball rolled up beside him, Zachary picked up the ball in his hands. Before he could decide what to do with it, a young boy from another class came up and asked him for the ball.
As Zachary handed the ball back, the boy introduced himself as Justin. He was in the classroom across the hall from Zachary’s classroom. Justin asked Zachary to join him and his friends while they kicked the ball around, but Zachary declined.
As the first week ended, and all the children had left for the day, Mrs. Quarrel decided to tidy up the students’ desks. When she came to Zachary’s, however, it was neatly organized and clean. Then she spotted the edge of a drawing sticking out from inside the desk.
As she carefully removed the stack of papers and began to skim through them, she then realized that there was much more to young Zachary than she had imagined. Mixed in with more exquisite drawings, were beautiful poems he had written. She wondered at first, if these were the notes of an older sibling that Zachary had brought to school with him, but he was an only child.
She called the school principal into the room to see Zachary’s work and she agreed that a meeting should be arranged with Zachary’s parents. The principal took it one step further and contacted the principal of Zachary’s former school. She found out that there were conflicts within the classrooms between Zachary and other students because of his advanced skills. They would tease him and call him names, as children often do. Eventually, his parents decided to have him transferred to Pudmore Elementary so he could get a fresh start.
On Monday evening, after dismissal, Principal Wannamaker sat down with Zachary’s parents while Mrs. Quarrel kept Zachary occupied in the classroom. The principal told them that she was aware of the difficulties Zachary had at his previous school, and she wanted to do whatever was in her power to make Zachary’s transition into Pudmore Elementary a more enjoyable one.
She then asked if they were aware of Zachary’s special talents to which his mother replied that they were, but they wanted him to have a normal life. Principal Wannamaker paused for a moment and considered how she should bring up her next suggestion.
“I understand your concerns regarding Zachary having a normal life, but in my experience, gifted children like your son often grow up resentful and depressed if they are left in an environment that does not allow them to show their full potential.”
Zachary’s parents looked at one another with concern and Principal Wannamaker continued.
“Thankfully, Mrs. Quarrel, Zachary’s teacher was able to spot his gifts early on and chose to come to me in regard to it. There are options here that I would like you both to consider, and by all means, ask Zachary his opinion as well. I’m sure he would appreciate being involved in the decision.”
“Firstly, you can choose to send Zachary to a school for gifted children where he can be around peers who are equally talented. However, the tuition can be quite costly. Secondly, there is the option of keeping him here at Pudmore but offering him some one-on-one tutelage with someone who will give him more challenging work outside of his regular curriculum. Thirdly, we can keep him in his current program and hope that he is able to fit in without becoming bored.”
“All I ask, is that you take a few days to think it over, and when you decide, please let me know.”
Principal Wannamaker called down to Mrs. Quarrel’s classroom and asked her to bring Zachary to the office so his parents could take him home. Mrs. Quarrel helped him gather his belongings and walked him to the office. She shook hands with his parents and told them that Zachary is a lovely child and a pleasure to have in her class.
As they left the building, Zachary looked back at Mrs. Quarrel and waved goodbye with a smile on his face that lit up the dim-lit foyer.
A few days had passed when Principal Wannamaker received the call they had been waiting for. Zachary’s parents had decided to keep him at Pudmore Elementary but at Zachary’s request, he wanted Mrs. Quarrel to teach him the advanced studies.
Mrs. Quarrel took into consideration how much more difficult it would be for her to juggle her grade one class plus tutor Zachary at a higher grade level, but she did not want to let him down, so she agreed.
Months had gone by, and Zachary was already studying at a ninth-grade level in grammar and language. He was far beyond what anyone had expected. This once shy little boy was now blossoming and participating not only in classroom activities, but also in social activities during recess.
He had befriended Justin, and they, along with other students would spend the entire recess periods outside playing and laughing. Mrs. Quarrel watched from a distance at the transformation that Zachary was going through, and she couldn’t help but feel she was part of the reason.
She knew already that Zachary was going to be fine now. He just needed someone to recognize his underlying potential and encourage him. She tried to imagine where he would be in twenty years and what further gifts he may acquire. The possibilities were endless.