I taught third grade for many years and every year I had a reward system in place for students who had earned enough “tickets” to go to what I called the “Class Store.” The class store was comprised of all sorts of toys and treats that would appeal to any third grader. There were model cars and airplanes, footballs, frizbees, jump ropes, and jacks as well as smaller items such as colored pencils, stickers, glitter, and just a wide variety of items that third graders love.


Each Friday the students would each get a chance to visit the class store to choose an item or items. These items would be theirs to keep and the number of tickets that each student had to spend was directly dependent of their behavior for that week. Thus, the students who had behaved well would have more tickets to purchase more class store items with and those who had not behaved well would obviously not have many if any tickets at all to spend. We kept a running tally all week long so each student was not surprised at the end of the week as to what sort of purchasing power that he or she possessed!


I used this system for my entire teaching career and it worked fabulously. Both the parents and the students understood very well why they had tickets to spend or why they did not. Over the years, I would occasionally have a student that both surprised and delighted me with their unselfishness. This first happened during my third year of teaching in which I had a little boy in my class who was a stellar student. His name was Tyler and he came from a great family, both parents were involved and concerned about his progress at school and he had an adorable little four year old sister who was not yet in school. At the end of the first week, when it came time to visit the class store, he walked up to the box, and chose some princess stickers and walked back to his seat. I was a bit perplexed because this lad was all boy…always playing the rougher games on the playground and he sported a soft buzz hair cut, loved football and was a great little athlete. All of his interest was in sports as well so I was a bit puzzled at his choice of stickers from the store. I called him up to my desk and asked him about it. He leaned into me and said “My little sister saw the class store at open house and all she has been talking about at home are these princess stickers so I wanted to get them for her before one of the girls chose them.” I was speechless. To see such unselfishness exhibited by this little eight year old guy just pricked my heart. For the next couple weeks that he visited the store, he chose some super hero stickers and a plastic football for himself. Around the fourth week of school, one of my more generous parents came into my class one morning with a huge bag of new items for the class store…one of them being a beautiful doll complete with another package of little doll clothes that accompanied it.. It was a very big item and would take several tickets to purchase it therefore requiring that the little girls interested in getting this doll would need to refrain from going to the class store for several weeks as they would need to save their tickets in order to purchase such a large item. That very first week when it came time for Tyler to visit the class store, he politely declined. When I asked him why, he quietly said that he just didn’t want to visit it that week. For the next several weeks, his answer was the same; he would not visit the store…not for candy, treats, toys…nothing could tempt him. It was apparent that he was saving his tickets for something that he wanted badly. After about six weeks of saving up, the Friday arrived in which he jumped out of his seat with a huge smile on his face, ran up to the box of treasures, and selected the baby doll complete with the attached package of doll clothes. His buddies in the class began snickering and teasing him about his choice but he was unphased. He simply walked to the back of the room and carefully slipped his new purchase into his book bag. He returned to his seat with a very content and satisfied expression on his handsome little face. When the bell rang at the close of the day and the students were lining up, I called him to my desk and asked him about his choice. He said to me “ I love getting things for Abbie (his little sis)…it just makes me more happy than when I get something for me.”


Again, I was stunned and had no words to say but was choking back a few tears. A little eight year old boy that discovered the truth that giving brings so much more happiness than taking, and he was living that truth out right there in the class room in front of me as his teacher and in front of his friends.


I have thought of that big hearted eight year old boy many times over the years. I marveled then and still marvel today when I think of him. He had already learned a lesson that many folks never learn over the course of their lifetime. He was a teacher himself  that year and he taught by example.


I think we can all learn by remembering a small boy and what he knew to be true.