Many years ago, I had a student in one of my afternoon classes who was a shining example of the need for PE every day in middle school. He was wound for sound on a daily basis and had so much energy to spare that he probably could have supplied power for his very own battery factory. He didn’t just have potential energy for physical things– he had real potential in every way. He was bright academically, excelled in band and athletics, and had a great sense of humor.
I remember that he went to the nurse pretty regularly, and in an effort to let that little bundle of sparkling static electricity expend some energy, I let him go. Go! Run a few laps around the building too! Get out some of the wiggles!
He came back with a mint almost every time. I suspect his stomach hurt pretty often because, as a high-energy teenage boy, he was hungry. Most days, he asked me to open it for him, because he dropped more than a few in his effort to free them from the plastic. I kept my scissors at the ready, because I swear breaking into those packages was akin to cracking a safe at Fort Knox!
One day, as I handed the open package back to him, scissors in my other hand, I joked, “You just have to be smarter than the wrapper.” I was referring to my use of the scissors. I promptly forgot the exchange, because it was just another mint, just another day.
A few weeks later, the school nurse told me that the young man had spent almost 5 minutes in her office that day, struggling to open his mint and refusing help because he “needed to be smarter than the wrapper.”
Sometimes in life our words fall like anvils, even when we don’t mean them in a negative way.
And I’ve never forgotten.