Heart-to-heart: a teacher's fable

June 08, 2000|By Betsy Rumberger

ONCE THERE lived a teacher who enjoyed working with children. Frequently the teacher said that she preferred the company of children to adults. Every day, she would teach her students and at night head home feeling tired but happy.

At about the beginning of April, just as the earth was starting to smell like daffodils and butterflies, a scary thing happened. After a wonderful day in the classroom, the teacher went home feeling ill. She did not feel too bad at first - just a little different, as if she had a small tickle in the back of her throat. That night she went to bed early.

By early May, she still did not feel right. Her family persuaded her to go for a doctor's checkup.

"I cannot quite describe it," explained the teacher. "It's as if I have a pain in my chest, sort of like my heart aches."

"What is going on at work?"

"Well, my students and I are having an excellent year. Their reading and writing are stronger and their States Fair projects were fantastic."

"Hmm. Anything different at school lately?"

"The other day, all my children got 100 percent on their spelling test. During recess I played football on the playground with them."

"Ah ha!" replied the doctor. "Most likely some pulled muscles. Just relax for a few days."

That evening, the teacher tried to rest. The following day she awoke from a troubled sleep, still feeling poorly. Soon May turned to June, but her pains kept getting worse. Only a few days of school remained.

In desperation, the teacher made an appointment with a second doctor. For several minutes, the doctor thought quietly. Finally, she spoke.

"Yes, I think I know the trouble and how to cure it. But to be sure, I would like to run some tests."

The doctor carefully examined the results, peering closely at the teacher's X-ray. There on the picture was a dark spot; silently the doctor studied it. The only noise in the room came from the crumpled paper on the examining table. Turning to the teacher, the doctor spoke cautiously.

"It's not often such a condition as yours happens."

"Do you think it's serious?" stammered the teacher.

"Well, it is unchangeable; there is no treatment for it. However, look at this dark mass." said the doctor, pointing to her X-ray.

"You have grown another heart next to your other one. The pains are its growth. Each spring, as your students prepare to leave for the next grade, you grow a second heart. Chambers in this new heart beat for each one of your departing students. That way your students will stay with you forever."

The teacher finally began to understand what had been happening to her. Even with this additional heart, the doctor explained, she still would continue to lead a healthy and happy life. The teacher thanked the doctor and sped home to her family.

To this day, and for all the days to come, the teacher's two hearts beat.

Her students, no matter how much they grow up over the years, stay in their teacher's heart forever, always loved and always remembered.

Betsy Rumberger, a fourth-grade language and social studies teacher at Harrisburg Academy, Wormleysburg, Pa., has been teaching for 17 years.

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