Raymond’s Gift

photo of green leafed plant on wicker basket

( Intermediate Level )

Mrs. Margaret Broomfield was known as the most caring teacher at Public School Number Nineteen. She taught second grade for over twenty two years. Each school year, when a student was in need of something, she made it a point to help them without making it a big deal out of it.

For many years she bought backpacks, crayons, winter coats or even shoes for her students using her own money. She was the epitome of what people describe as a kind and generous person.

This year turned out to be a little different. Mrs. Broomfield had come down with pneumonia and she missed a lot of school. It had taken her quite a bit of time to recover.

Her students missed her even though their long term substitute teacher was wonderful. She wasn’t Mrs. Broomfield. Raymond missed her more than anyone had realized. He had lost his grandmother a year ago and he became attached to Mrs. Broomfield’s wonderful motherly demeanor.

Thanksgiving came and went and still Raymond’s teacher hadn’t returned to work. Raymond had become very quiet in class. He had always been very eager to participate and answer questions but now he was quite the opposite.

Miss Sally, the substitute, talked with Mrs. Broomfield often keeping her up to date with her students. She had mentioned Raymond’s behavior and this bothered Mrs. Broomfield. She knew he was a sensitive little one.

“Tell Raymond that I am on the mend and should be back to school soon. Until then I want him to keep an eye on things and to be your helper.”

Sally smiled and thought this was a fantastic idea. Keeping his mind busy would be a great thing especially with Christmas coming up. “I will tell him on Monday morning.” They hung up the phone with one another until Monday evening for a new update.

Monday morning came and Miss Sally had asked to speak to Raymond. His classmates thought for sure he was in trouble and you heard them chant, “Oh, Raymond is in trouble. Raymond is in trouble.” Miss Sally quickly shushed them.

Raymond looked at Miss Sally as she sat at her desk, “I talked with Mrs. Broomfield on Friday and she is asking a special favor from you. She would like you to help me as you had helped her. She is hoping to be back at school very soon until then you will be my special helper.”

Raymond smiled with delight. He accepted the new role as Miss Sally’s helper and he said, “I will do my best. Tell Mrs. Broomfield to hurry back until then I will help you as much as I can.”

That evening Raymond couldn’t wait to tell his parents of his new role in the classroom. “If you think of Miss Sally being the president then I would be the Vice President” His dad chuckled. “This is a very important job, you know. I know you will do good as the Vice President.

For the next few weeks Raymond and his classmates had one thing on their mind. With almost three weeks for their winter break from school and Christmas which was right around the corner, their excitement grew.

Mrs. Broomfield was told by her doctor she would be able to return to work just after the break. Miss Sally had shared the fantastic news with the students.

I will miss all of you,” she said. Especially you Raymond. You have been such a great help to me but I know you are all anxious to have Mrs. Broomfield back.”

Raymond stayed behind as the others headed to the lunch room. He wanted to talk with Miss Sally about his special gift for his teacher.

Miss Sally. Can I ask you for a favor?” Raymond’s face was serious. “Of course you can. What is it Raymond? Raymond drew in his breath and began. “Every year Mrs. Brookfield takes care of us. If we ever need anything then we can ask her. If she is able she gets what we need.” Miss Sally had heard this about his teacher.

“So what exactly do you want me to do? Raymond quickly ran over to his backpack which was on a hook by the door. He pulled out his piggybank and returned to Miss Sally.

“I have been saving my money for a long time and I want you to take it and buy Mrs. Broomfield a Christmas tree. I know she wasn’t able to get her own this year. she cannot have a Christmas without a tree.”

Miss Sally sat there absorbing Raymond’s words. At age eight he showed her the true meaning of Christmas. He could have asked for dozens of things but instead he thought of his teacher.

I think that is a fantastic idea. Let go one step further and the class can make all of the decorations and you can make the special star that sits on the top. I will deliver it on Friday.”

He hugged Miss Sally. “ I will miss you too.” He turned and ran towards the cafeteria with a huge smile on his face. He couldn’t wait to share the news with his classmates and tell his parents what he decided all on his own.

In class the next day the students busied themselves making decorations for their teacher’s tree. Miss Sally would go out that evening to purchase a small tree since Margaret’s apartment was small. She would bring it to class so the children could see it .

Raymond made the star for the top. He carefully glued sparkles all over it so the light on the trees would make it shimmer. He was proud of his masterpiece.

At the end of the day Miss Sally collected all the ornaments the children made. They even made a very long paper garland made of green and red construction paper. They felt it would add the perfect touch.

She promised the students she would deliver everything tonight. It was the last day of school and it was Miss Sally’s last day teaching their class. Each student hugged her as they left for winter break.

Sally knocked on Margaret’s door about six that evening. She carried a box of homemade ornaments in one hand and a small live tree in the other. “What’s all this,?” as she helped Sally with the box..

“All of this is from your students. It was Raymond’s idea. He wanted me to buy you a tree. He said Christmas isn’t Christmas without a tree.”

“He is so kind and I will miss that little one.” Margaret sat down on her sofa going though all the ornaments and reading the messages on the back.

The two women set the tree up and decorated it with all the student’s ornaments. Sally’s contribution was a string of holiday lights that glowed red, green and white.

Margaret stepped back and looked at the final product. She wanted to take pictures so she could show her students after break. “Wait. I have one more special thing from Raymond.” She went to her coat pocket and carefully unwrapped his shiny star for the top.

Sally handed it to Margaret so she had the honors of placing this precious star on the top. Both stood back in admiration. Not only for what the children made but what they did out of love for their teacher.

Tons of pictures were taken by both. Sally, so she could remember the students and Margaret so she can share them once she returned to school. They sat in silence, drinking coffee and eating sugar cookies while they looked at the tree. To each of them the tree stood for something but one thing they both agreed on, the tree stood for more than just a tree.

Written By: Angel

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Through the years Christmas somehow became commercialized. The true meaning seems to be washed away or hidden behind the frill.

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Vocabulary:

making it a big deal out of it – idiom:  to treat (something) as very important or too important

epitome – noun: a perfect example of a particular quality or type

generous – adjective: showing kindness toward others

demeanor – noun: outward behavior

eager -adjective: wanting to do or have something very much

sensitive – adjective: quick to detect or respond to slight changes, signals, or influences

on the mend – idiom: improving in health or condition; recovering

delight – noun : great pleasure

fantastic – adjective: extraordinarily good

absorbing – adjective: intensely interesting

cafeteria – noun: dining room in a school or a business

shimmer – verb: shine with a soft light

Question ( s ):

What is the definition of Christmas for you?


Jia Li

woman wearing eyeglasses

( Intermediate Level )

Jia Li’s dream was to study abroad once she reached the university level. She did very well throughout her educational career and received top scores. Her greatest achievement was an overall band score of 8.0 on her IELTS on her first try.

Unfortunately, her family, mainly her father, had something different in mind when it came to her. She was their only child and she tried to argue her point of view but it fell on deaf ears.

All she could do was dream about what it would have been like if she was able to attend a university in another country. Jia Li dare not disappoint her family. Especially her father. He was the most traditional of everyone she knew.

She asked him once, “Why are you stuck in the old ways, Baba? The world around us is changing.” All she had in response was a stern glare and grumbling under his breath.

She never pressed the issue with him anymore. It was quite obvious how he felt. Her mother always sided with her husband. It was easier for her. So instead she gave up her dream.

Jia Li had one person in her life who listened to her and encouraged her. This was her native – speaking English teacher, Rebecca Adams, who had been her teacher and mentor for over six years.

The one thing she didn’t understand was why her father would hold Jia Li back after all she achieved academically. “What is the worst that would happen if you applied to a university and were accepted? You’re the only child and surely he would not disown you.”

“For now I think it is best I stay here and attend at least two years in one of our universities. I will try asking him again towards the end of the second year. Maybe he will soften his view.”

“My job is done with you. You will soon go off to school again and I need to move on. You are this teacher’s pride and joy.” She smiled at Jia Li and told her to keep in touch. This was a promise Jia Li aimed to keep.

The emails came frequently at first. Jia Li made sure to tell Rebecca about her classes and her teachers. As time passed the correspondence was more occasional.

Ms. Adams had returned to America as she felt she was away from her family too long. How long she would stay would be determined in the future. Her parents were getting up there in age so she wanted to stay around for a few years.

Rebecca remembers one of the latest emails from Jia Li. She wrote her father had become ill with cancer, and the doctors said they had done all they could do for him.

She also mentioned that her father had given her added pressure to get married and have a child before he died.

“Rebecca, it is close to the end of my second year and I have sent out applications to many universities abroad. I feel this is my last chance to follow my dream but with my father and his cancer I must stay. My mother will need me.”

When Rebecca read this her heart sank. She knew how long and hard she had worked but she understood. The end was inevitable for her father but it could be the beginning for Jia Li.

She wrote back and gave her deepest sympathies for what she and her family was going through. She ended her email with a few simple lines.

My sweet Jia Li,

I have watched you grow up and become the person you have become. I am so glad I was chosen to be your teacher, your mentor, and your friend.

I know whatever choice you make in life you will surely succeed. I do not truly understand fully why your father held you back from the very beginning.

In my eyes, a parent should want more for their child than they had. Maybe this is one of the subtle differences between our cultures.

I hope you continue to keep in touch as you hold a special place in my heart. Please give my best to your parents.

Forever your friend,

Rebecca

As she tapped the send key Rebecca wondered if her former student would marry and have a child just to make her father happy.

As the months passed, Rebecca went on with her life. She managed to land a position at the university in which she graduated, teaching English to foreign students.

Once in a while, something or someone in her class would trigger a memory of Jai Li, and hoped she was doing well. She knew she would reach out once she could. Right now her family needed her.

The school year ended and Rebecca took her parents on vacation to Florida. Her mother’s sister and her husband had retired there. They spent a few weeks with them then traveled on to Georgia where her father’s brother lived.

It was a nice getaway for all of them. Rebecca would return to work in a month and a half. She was asked to return for another year which made her very happy. Maybe in another year or two, she would entertain working abroad again.

She hadn’t thought about moving out of her parent’s home. It was convenient for everyone. Her parents could rely on her and it was only twenty minutes from work. It was a win – win situation,

When the trio returned from their vacation they all sported a dark tan from the beautiful sunshine of Florida and Georgia. They hadn’t had a family vacation together in years.

While on vacation, Rebecca didn’t check her emails or social media. It was a time for her to detach from everything and unwind. She would have a week before work started up again and she was expecting anything urgent enough to interrupt their vacation.

The second night back Rebecca sat at her computer going through all her emails. She scrolled down and read what she felt was important and the rest she would leave for another time.

She kept scrolling through until one caught her eye. It was from Jia Li. She opened it and began to read.

“I wanted to write you a few shirt lines to let you know I am alright. I am sorry I haven’t written before now but you have always been on my mind.

Sadly, my father passed almost twenty days ago, and towards the end, he wasn’t himself. In my eyes, he had always been a strong determined man but he gave up. He was too tired to fight any longer.

I have been helping my mother deal with things here. They had been married for almost thirty – seven years and knew each other since grade school. She not only lost her husband but her best friend.

I do have a huge surprise for you and I cannot wait to share this news with you. When I have more time I will share this.”

Miss you,

Jia Li

Rebecca read through her email twice and she wondered what the surprise was. It was too soon for her to have a baby but maybe she married and became pregnant to satisfy her father’s wishes.

Either way, she would be supportive and happy for her. It was not up to her to judge something she really didn’t understand.

The final week of her vacation passed by too quickly. Before she knew it she was back at school prepping for the upcoming school year and the students.

She had over three hundred students assigned to her this year. Almost one hundred more from last year. She wouldn’t know until the first week of classes how many actually would come.

The week went by and Rebecca is ready for next week’s students. She made copies of her syllabus and her classroom rules along with the guidelines for the three student essays that they would be assigned.

She sat there going over everything once again and a staff member walked into her room. “Hi Rebecca, there is someone here to see you and I told her classes didn’t start until next week but she is insisting she speak with you tonight.”

“It’s ok. I am just about to leave. I will take a few minutes to speak with her before I head home. Thank you for letting me know.”

Rebecca gathered her papers and her briefcase had headed out. Turning off her classroom’s lights as she left. She couldn’t imagine why a student insisted on seeing her before school actually began.

As she entered the reception area she looked over at a woman sitting with her back facing her. She noticed her long black hair and tiny frame.

Rebecca sat her briefcase on the counter and began to walk over to this woman. As she approached her she gasped, “Oh my. I am so happy to see you.”

Jia Li stood up and gave her teacher a huge hug. They held each other for a long time.

Jia Li stepped back, “Surprise. I finally can follow my dream. It is never too late as my mother reminded me recently. She has gone to live with her sister and told me to get my butt here where I have always wanted to be.

“I had my choice of many universities but I chose here. I was accepted into the Ph.D. program. It is the next chapter in my life!” The two hugged once more. Rebecca grabbed the briefcase and they headed out the door.

Written By: Angel

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Many cultural differences are difficult for me to understand but in the same breath I respect them.

If you appreciate what I do and would like to “Buy Me A Coffee”

“I get 100% of all donations”

Vocabulary:

achievement – noun: something done successfully, typically by effort or skill

deaf ears– idiom: no one listens

under his (one’s) breath – idiom: quietly so that other people cannot hear exactly what you are saying

mentor– noun: an experienced adviser or teacher

disown – verb: refuse to acknowledge or have any connection with

correspondence – noun: communication by exchanging letters or emails with someone

getting up there in age – idiom: elderly or becoming old

inevitable – adjective: certain to happen, unavoidable

deepest sympathies – idiom: said as a set response to someone sharing their misfortunes

subtle – adjective: difficult to analyze or describe, distinction

win – win -adjective: denoting a situation in which each party benefits in some way

prepping – noun: he action or process of preparing something

Question ( s ):

What are your thoughts on the plight of Jia Li?

If you were her, would you have followed your dream?

Just Let Me Sing

( Intermediate Level )

Kathryn was a shy ten-year-old little girl. She didn’t have many friends. Her classmates made fun of her speech impediment. She wouldn’t raise her hand in class to answer questions and she sat alone at lunch just watching her classmates play at recess.

When Kathryn began to talk at the age of two her mother thought her stammer was cute and really didn’t see any reason to be concerned. The doctors told her not to worry. “Many children go through this stage when learning to talk.” Once she got a little older they would reexamine the situation.

It wasn’t until she started school that she noticed her daughter’s stammer became more pronounced. By this time Kathryn’s personality changed. She used to be an inquisitive learner. She would ask tons of questions. Now she has retreated into her own little world.

It wasn’t until Kathryn reached the fifth grade when she met her new teacher, did her life change. Immediately, Miss Greenwald noticed Kathryn’s stammer. She, too, had a member in her family with this infliction and had knowledge in how she could help her.

Miss Greenwald took the opportunity to talk with Kathryn’s mother at the meet the teacher night held at the beginning of each school year. She asked her permission to work with Kathryn three times a week, after school, to help her with her stammer.

Of course, Kathryn’s mother agreed. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for one hour after school Kathryn would meet with Miss Greenwald. Both Kathryn’s mom and Miss Greenwald had high hopes for Kathryn. If anything, they’re hoping to bring her out of the shell she created for herself.

Kathryn didn’t understand why she had to stay after school three times a week. She had told her mom she felt she was being punished. Her mom reassured her that she was not in trouble. “Miss Greenwald simply wants to see if she can help you, honey.

Reluctantly, Kathryn stays after class on Monday. This would be the first time she would meet with her teacher. She would rather be home in her bedroom with her toys.

Kathryn sat quietly at her desk waiting for Miss Greenwald. She was hoping her teacher forgot. Just as she thought this, Miss Greenwald walked in carrying a pile of papers and a book.

She set her belongings on the desk in front of where Kathryn was sitting and turned the desk around so she could face her. Miss Greenwald gave Kathryn a huge smile and sat down.

Why the sad face? You will love what I have planned for us“, as she organized the pile of papers into different smaller piles. “First of all, let me say you are not alone when it comes to your stammer.”

” Seventy million people in the world have the same as you. That is one person in every one hundred has a stammer. And Missy, this does not include other speech problems such as a lisp or a handful of other impediments. You are not alone in this.”

My nephew, Greg, has a stammer also. He is much older than you and has found ways to control it. This impediment will not go, away you just have to find ways to control it. I don’t want you to hide that pretty voice of yours.”

Kathryn sat there listening to her teacher. Now, she found herself wanting to know more. She isn’t different. She is not a freak as her classmates would call her.

As each after-school session continued, Kathryn’s mom noticed a change in her daughter. She was no longer hiding in her bedroom. She enjoyed spending time with and talking to her mom now.

Mom, Miss Greenwald says this problem will not go away so I need to find ways to control it. I can use some of the techniques she taught me. Slowing down when I talk and thinking about each word I say.”

“I am to focus on her in the classroom and not look at the others. It may take me a little longer to answer but I am not going anywhere anytime soon so those listening need to sit and listen.” She giggled at this last statement.

It is important for you not to help me with words. Let me do it on my own. Miss Greenwald, also, said every Friday we would go to the music room and sing. She said she read where people who have the same problem, as me, sing and their stammering goes away.”

Oh Mommy, wouldn’t that be great if I could sing and no one would know I have a stammer?” Kathryn’s mom stood there listening to every word she said. She was amazed at how far her daughter had come and how much confidence she had now.

Yes, Kathryn it would be amazing to hear you sing. I look forward to this. I hope Miss Greenwald will allow me to come and listen one day.”

The first few singing sessions in the music room were a bit scary for Kathryn. This is the first time she heard her voice through a microphone. She thought it sounded awful.

Next Friday, Kathryn, I want you to do something different. I want you to close your eyes when you sing. I want you to feel the words. All along I asked you to think of each word as you say them but now I want you to feel the words when you sing.”

Kathryn didn’t quite understand what her teacher wanted. Feel the words? She would close her eyes, as her teacher asked, next Friday. Until then she would practice the song Miss Greenwald picked for her.

The song she picked was a song that she felt would mean something very special to Kathryn. It was about a girl finding her voice and not caring what others thought.

Without Kathryn’s knowledge, Miss Greenwald made a call to her mom, “I am calling to see if you would like to come to the music room at school on Friday to hear your daughter sing?”

Without hesitation, she said, “Yes, Kathryn told me what you two were up to. I am so excited! Thank you for everything you have done for my Kathryn. I am so happy to see my little girl enjoying life again!

“One more thing, please do not say anything to your daughter about coming. I am afraid she will be too shy or afraid to sing. She has made wonderful progress and I wanted to share this with you,” Miss Greenwald said with concern. ” See you on Friday at about four. I will have her practice a few times first.”

Kathryn practiced and kept practicing the song. Since she was to sing with her eyes closed she couldn’t read the lyrics. This meant she had to memorize each word.

Monday’s and Wednesday’s after-school classes went without a hitch. Kathryn always tried her best for her teacher. Miss Greenwald told her on Friday they would practice the song to music only. Her voice would be the only voice they would hear.

Kathryn knew the words of the song by heart now. On Friday she would hear her voice put to the music. It was exciting and terrifying all at the same time. “You will be fine. Remember I have been here every step with you and I think you are amazing. I am so proud of you.”

The music room doors were closed and the lights dimmed. Kathryn stood on the small stage reading through the music one more time. “Are you ready?”, her teacher asked. Kathryn sighed and said, “Yes.

The music started. “Listen to the music then start when you are ready.” Kathryn stood there. “Close your eyes. You can do this.” Kathryn closed her eyes and began. With each chord, her voice became stronger as her confidence grew.

“That was amazing Kathryn. Get a drink of water and let’s talk about a few changes and we will do it once more.” They discussed the changes and Kathryn sang one more time. She was amazed. She didn’t have any difficulty with any of the words. Each word flowed without any hesitation.

“Okay, I need to step outside for a moment and make a call. When I get back I will have you sing one last time. I think, now, you understand what I meant by feeling the words.” She smiled and stepped out of the music room.

A few minutes passed and Miss Greenwald returned. “Are you ready?” She turned the lights down once again and Kathryn adjusted the microphone.

When Miss Greenwald left she had made sure Kathryn’s mom had arrived. She instructed her to stay outside the door until she heard the music start. Kathryn would have her eyes closed plus the lights would be down low. She could slip in and sit in the back row.

The music started and Kathryn began to sing. Her voice was beautiful. Her hands moved with each word. Her mom had slipped into a seat and listened. She sat there watching how her daughter stood behind the microphone enjoying what she was doing.

When the song finished Kathryn opened her eyes. She had a huge smile on her face. She saw Miss Greenwald standing directly in front of her. “Kathryn what an amazing job you did with that song. You felt each word.”

As Kathryn smiled back at her teacher her eyes were drawn to a slight movement towards the back of the room. Then she saw her mom. Her mom stood and clapped. The sound of her hands-clapping echoed in the music room.

A huge smile appeared on Kathryn’s face. “See Mommy, just let me sing!

Written by: Angel

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Vocabulary:

speech impediment – noun: a defect in a person’s speech

recess – noun: a break

stammer (also known as a stutter) – noun: pauses and a tendency to repeat the initial letters of words

inquisitive – adjective: curious

retreated – verb: withdraw

infliction – noun: unpleasant situation, circumstance or problem

bring her out of the shell – idiom: to cause someone to be more outgoing

punished – verb: treat (someone) in an unfairly harsh way

reassured – verb: remove doubts or fears

lisp – verb: speech impairment where sounds of letters sound differently such as s or z sounds like a th sound

techniques – noun: skill or ability

confidence – noun: feeling of trust or belief

lyrics

memorize – verb: learn by heart

hitch – noun: interruption or problem

terrifying – adjective: extreme fear

slight – adjective: small degree, inconsiderable

Question ( s ):

Do you know anyone with a speech impediment?

If so, what techniques do they use to control their impediment?