The Butterfly


Beth is one of my graduate students. Although she has been sitting across from me for a semester, I was missing an important piece of her history until today. I have collected hundreds of teacher stories, but Beth’s story about Mrs. Rivers is one of the most beautiful.

I was in first grade when my older brother was killed in an accident. I was devastated and felt sure I could never be happy again. I had been out of school for a week when Mrs. Rivers knocked on our door. She came in quietly, sat down in the living room next to me, and placed a plastic milk jug on the table. I peeked inside at a stick with one green leaf, and I noticed a gray-green chrysalis hanging from the stick. Mrs. Rivers leaned in close to me and said, “This butterfly is not in a good place right now. It is going to struggle for a while. But then, it will be stronger and more beautiful than ever. You will, too.”

I kept the jug close and watched for two weeks. Finally, the chrysalis began to shake, and a butterfly emerged. It flapped it’s wet wings and climbed on the stick. Later that day, I took it outside to let it fly free. Mrs. Rivers was right, I started to feel better. Things would never be the same, but I would learn to cope. I have carried that lesson through every struggle since.

Beth’s story reminds me of how difficult and how important it is to sit with a student in pain. Students need to know they are not alone- especially when they are hurting. Was there a teacher who helped you through a difficult struggle?

Wishing you an endless supply of chalk and chances-


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