To her new classroom of twenty-five eleven and twelve year old boys and girls the mannish teacher said, “The most important thing you can do in life is to work for a cause that is bigger than yourself.”
Dark-haired Tommy leaped to his feet and nearly shouted, “I’m going to train elephants!” Then blue-eyed Betsy exclaimed, “I’m going to build tall buildings!” And George said, quietly, “I’m going to write a symphony.”
“No, no,” snapped the teacher. “When I say “bigger than yourself” I mean more important than the things you want to do.”
Then yellow-curled Linda said, “But if it’s not something I want to do, then it’s not important at all. I mean, it’s not important to me. If it’s important to someone else, then they can do it. It will be their cause. If everybody thought the same thing was important to them it would be a very boring world.”
The teacher stood still, stunned. Then she burst out, “Oh, my God, what a class of selfish little monsters I’ve got!”
Jack, very mature for his twelve years, said, “Go look in a mirror. Then you’ll see a real monster.” And skinny little Joe piped up, “Are you related to Stalin, or to Hitler?”
Then, silently, they all looked at their new teacher. She looked back at them, first at one, then at another. Some of the kids looked at her very curiously; others seemed to be judging her with supremely self-confident, adult eyes! She was beginning to feel naked. Then she felt a tightness in her throat; she couldn’t breathe. Then she suddenly turned and ran out of the classroom. The kids heard her screams echoing down the hallway.