He was in the first third grade class I taught at Saint Mary's School in Morris, Minnesota. All thirty-four of my students were dear to me but Mark Eklund was one in a million. He was very neat in appearance and he had that happy-to-be-alive attitude that made even his occasional mischievousness delightful.
Mark talked incessantly. I had to remind him again and again
that talking without permission was not acceptable. What impressed
me so much, though, was his sincere response every time I correct
him for misbehaving.
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One morning my patience was growing thin when Mark
talked once too often and I made a novice teacher's
It wasn't ten seconds later when Chuck blurted out,
"Mark is talking again."
I remember the scene as if it had occurred this morning.
I walked to my desk, very deliberately opened my drawer
and took out a roll of masking tape. Without saying
a word, I proceeded to Mark's desk, tore off two pieces
of tape and made a big X with them over his mouth.
I then returned to the front of the room. As I glanced
at Mark to see how he was doing, he winked at me.
That did it! I started laughing. The class cheered
as I walked back to Mark's desk, removed the tape
and shrugged my shoulders.
At the end of the year I was asked to teach junior high math. The years flew by and before I knew it, Mark was in my class again. He was more handsome than ever and just as polite. Since he had to listen carefully to learn the "new math", he did not talk as much in ninth grade as he had in the third.
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One Friday, things just didn't feel right. We had worked hard on a new concept all week and I sensed that the students were frowning, frustrated with themselves and edgy with one another. I had to stop this crankiness before it got out of hand. Hence, I asked them to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name. Following that, I told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down.
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