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The Short, Happy Lives of Teachers

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As we climb over the hump of summer toward a new school-year horizon, it’s a good time to share this fun (and often illuminating) activity we tried out recently in the Teacher Leaders Network discussion group.

The idea came from a newspaper feature describing a trend toward "succinct prose." The story cited a recent book published by Smith Magazine which carried the intriguing title, Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure.

As the feature story noted, this and similar collections of extremely short prose have been inspired by a six-word novel said to have been written by Ernest Hemingway on a dare. The novel read: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

The six-word memoirs published by Smith include one from TV chef Mario Batali ("Brought it to a boil, often"); another from an anonymous student ("Deferred all math homework to Dad"), and this from a long-suffering English teacher: "Grading AP essays, I crave Tolstoy."

Here’s the specific question we tossed into the TLN Forum arena:

If you were writing a mini-memoir of your teaching life, what would your six words be? Your memoir might be funny, inspirational, profound, mundane, deeply true. Want to play? Mull it over, doodle with pen and napkin or your favorite digital tool, and post your memoir for all of us to read.

Below are some of our favorite mini-memoirs from the TLN chat group. You’ll find a bit of humor, a lot of pride, and plenty of evidence that teachers are some of the glue that holds society together.

We hope Teacher Magazine readers will use the Comments tool at the end of this post to share a six-word story of your own teaching life.


They asked. I listened. We learned. (Majorie)

Life on the bell curve's edge. (Amy B)

Every day is a new adventure. (Amy E)

Reading creates new worlds—let's go! (David)

Exercised the muscle of the mind. (Nancy D)

Please, don't ask me for more! (Kim after a hard year)

Daily empowering students who learn differently. (Special ed teacher Mary Z)

No growth, no life. Struggling, soaring. (George)

Teacher, warrior, fighting for the future. (Gail T)

Always celebrating the joy of learning. (Louisa)

We learned by doing, always curious. (Marsha)

Making a difference. Leaving a legacy. (Dayle)

Connecting academic concepts to life applications. (Consumer sciences teacher Susan G)

Maximizing talents of others with enthusiasm. (Joanie)

Hard work and work worth doing. (Rona)

Shaping the future in the present. (Mark)

First class life with second graders! (Donna)

Painting big pictures and brighter education. (Preschool teacher and artist John H)

Learning with children, teachers and leaders. (Ellen H)

Untied shoelaces, missing front teeth – elementary! (Michelle)

Conduit for powerful current of discovery. (Elaine)

Learning as much as I teach. (Jane)

Active noisy classroom means brains working. (Cossondra)

Networked learner: learning never stops. (Sheryl)

Teachers wanted, patience mandatory, sanity optional. (Renee)

Champion of the underdog, forever passionate. (Jon)

Portal to the world beyond cornfields. (Karen in Indiana)

Forming artistic consciousness: society's future leaders. (Catherine)

Teaching middle school. Lost my mind? (Bill)

Teacher, learner, together we build futures. (Kathie)

Cheerleader aspirations. I teach. Same thing. (Cindi)

Keeping democracy alive for Generation Next. (Mary T)

Hoped to make difference. Was transformed. (Laura)

Loved science first; love students now. (Deborah)

Student potential boundless; teacher growth endless. (Nikki)

I just want to teach. Period. (Susie H)

There you have it-36 teacher memoirs, each exactly six words long. What’s yours?

—John Norton
TLN Moderator
Consorted with teachers; wiser for it.

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