This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week, and I want to take the time out to appreciate all the teachers who are doing exceptional work in the classroom to change the lives our most precious gifts, our students. I was blessed to have some amazing teachers throughout my life who in some way played a role in me becoming a teacher myself. I especially want to thank the man who made the biggest impact on my life some 18 years ago, my fifth grade teacher Mr. James Lloyd, who told the parents of a very hyper and energetic fifth grader that he is “just a boy and there is nothing wrong with him.”
As a teacher you may never know how much of an impact you have had on your students. Often times it is years later when your words and your lessons finally sink in and ring true in the lives of your students. School for me growing up was a place to learn. I was one of the lucky ones with a solid home life. I had both my parents in the house with me, engaged in what I was doing. I was able to get most things that I wanted and never had to worry about who was picking me up or whether or not I would have dinner that evening. Despite that foundation I was like so many boys my age: very hyper and talkative and getting in some trouble in elementary school. From kindergarten to third grade, I seemed to almost always be on the wrong side of discipline. All of my teachers were women during those years. And then, I entered 5th grade and everything changed. My teacher was Mr. Lloyd.
I attended the same school through fifth grade, Eastbrook Elementary School located in Pike Township in Indianapolis, IN. I do not remember much about my time in elementary school except for my fifth grade year and my time in Mr. Lloyd’s class.
Mr. Lloyd, who taught at Eastbrook for 27 years, was known as a disciplinarian. Anyone who had Mr. Lloyd as a teacher knew that he had that look and that voice. And students respected him.
Going into fifth grade I had established a bit of reputation for being a troublemaker. My teachers knew that I was a bright kid and that I was a good athlete, but I had been put in a box and slapped with a label. I know coming in Mr. Lloyd knew this but he never once held it against me. He saw potential in me that, at the time, only two other people in the world saw. My parents.
I remember one time of the many that I felt the “Lloyd Wrath.” And let me tell you, when Mr. Lloyd got on you it really shook you to the core but we always knew it was coming from a good place. I remember I was causing some issues in specials (art, music, library) My teachers had warned me that if I didn’t get it together, they would let Mr. Lloyd know. I continued to terrorize the art class. Well I think she had finally had enough and on that day. Mr. Lloyd had picked us up from art class and took us back to the room. When we got in the room I was heading to my seat when he said in a calm voice, “David I need to see you in the hallway” Once we got in the hallway he looked down at me, his face turning red, and he laid into me like no other. I remember being shaken up for the rest of the day.
Needless to say, I quickly became the model student in art. The one thing I remember most about that scolding was when he told my dad later about the situation he said, “Most of these women teachers do not get these boys. He is just a boy who is full of energy. He isn’t a bad kid. He just needs to be reminded from time to time is all. Your son is going to be special one day.” He was the first teacher to ever tell my parents (or me) that. He was the first teacher who really believed in me. I bet he never thought back then that I’d turn out to be a teacher.
Mr. Lloyd was truly one-of-a-kind. We don’t just need good teachers like him in the world, we need people like him in the world.
I never got the chance to go back and thank Mr. Lloyd for what he did for me during that 5th grade year. Mr. Lloyd died the following school year in September while he was doing what he loved: fishing. I really wish I could have told him thank you and I wish he were still around today to see what this energetic, hyper, talkative fifth grade boy turned out to be. I was the last full class he taught for a full school year. But I know he’s looking down with a smile at the man I turned out to be.
Thank you Mr. Lloyd for planting that seed in me eighteen years ago. It is a seed that will continue to grow and will hopefully have the same impact on students that you had on me.