One Flew Over the Teacher’s Desk (click to comment)


I was a problem child during my school days. If you were to check the records at Prairie Elementary School, you would discover that I still hold the record for ‘Most Whippings In A Week.’ By high school the teachers were wondering if there was any hope for me. To complicate matters, there were some strange teachers roaming the hallways. One prided himself on calling everyone by birthday. I was July 26. A friend of mine was May 3rd. Several years after high school my friend ran into this former teacher in a mall 1000 miles from home. Without stopping, our teacher said “Hi, May 3rd,” then walked away. Thankfully we had other teachers too. In tenth grade, I was standing at the drinking fountain when my English teacher, Mr. Bienert, tapped me on the shoulder.

“Listen, Callaway, your Math marks aren’t adding up. Biology? Chemistry? Physics? Well, the experiment is not working.” I’d been told this before. But what he said next was the best news I’d heard in a long time: “I want you in my Communication Arts class. I think God has given you a gift in the area of communication.” A teacher actually wanted me in his class. I couldn’t believe my ears. The next day I joined his class and worked eagerly on my first assignment: writing a poem for a poetry contest. I can’t remember a word I wrote, but I’ll never forget Mr. Bienert standing at the front of the classroom, pulling five bucks from his wallet, and calling me forward. “Congratulations Callaway. You’ve got first prize,” he said, stuffing the bill into my eager hand. You know, I’ve been influenced by a lot of people. Some have scolded me. Hollered at me. Spanked me. And most have forgotten my birthday. But those who influenced me the most didn’t just point a finger, they held out a helping hand. They knew that God was bigger than my short-comings. 

Now my books have traveled around the world. This is no tribute to me. It’s a tribute to the goodness and the greatness of an amazing God. And a tribute to those, like Mr. Bienert, who believed in God enough to believe He could do something with a crazy kid like me. Mr. Bienert took verses like Ephesians 4:29 and put them into practice: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Next time you look at a child, don’t think of what they are right now, think of what they could become—with a little encouragement from you.

Phil Callaway

Phil Callaway, the host of Laugh Again, is an award-winning author and speaker, known worldwide for his humorous yet perceptive look at life.

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