Tiny Teaching Stories: 'Not One of the Favorites'
The Powerful Moments of Your Lives, Distilled
We invite teachers to share their triumphs and frustrations, the hilarious or absurd moments of their lives, in no more than 100 words.
For more Tiny Teaching Stories, click here.
To submit your own story, click here.
‘Not One of the Favorites’
She dropped off the letter after graduation and asked me to read it only after she’d gone. In the letter, she described herself as a “side character, not one of the favorites.” She’d finished her work and earned a passing grade and been a pleasant student. But she was right, she was not a top student.
She wrote that she had planned to end her life, but a story I told in class had changed her mind. The story was about how I find purpose in my students. I had no idea it would be such a purpose.
11th and 12th grade Advanced Placement Biology, Biology, and Human Anatomy
Central Falls, R.I.
‘Was I Going to Be Arrested?’
As I ushered students out of my 5th period class, a police officer was waiting for me outside the door. My heartrate spiked. I sheepishly approached him. Was this really happening? Was I going to be arrested in front of my kids? What did I do? My career is over.
We locked eyes. He said, "Is the answer 13?" Startled, I paused. Huh?
Suddenly, relief fell over me. My anxiety lifted. I confidently replied, "No, there's more. Keep at it."
He was just checking his answer to the Sidewalk Math problem I’d created in front of the school. Whew.
Grade 10-12 mathematics
‘Brutally Honest and Impulsive’
Teaching is extremely humbling. This year, one of my sophomores asked me if I’d ever been to a party. When I replied yes, she burst out laughing and said I didn’t “look old enough.” She’s 15. Another time, I mentioned to a senior that we were wearing the same jacket and then he swore he was never going to wear it again. I’ve been asked why I don’t wear more makeup, why I’m not married, and why I chose a career that “doesn’t pay anything.”
These moments, while brutally honest and impulsive, make me smile. High schoolers are hilarious.
10th and 12th grade English
‘Why Couldn’t I Imagine’
“It’s Fun Friday, class! Today’s game: Two Truths and a Lie. I’m first. I played professional basketball, my wife teaches 3rd grade, I have eight siblings. How well do you know Mr. Bryant?”
“Your wife doesn’t teach 3rd grade!”
I laughed. Wasn’t it obvious? “Come on, who else in the school has the last name Bryant?”
Hollis, puzzled: “But Mrs. Bryant is white.”
Majestic: “I thought she was your sister, bro!”
“Majestic, she’s white …”
“She could be adopted.”
Why couldn’t they imagine a black man marrying a white woman? Why couldn’t I imagine a black family adopting a white daughter?
‘We Don’t Have Any Peanuts!’
During International Week, I asked the 2nd graders to pretend we were flying on an airplane to see all the different countries. I asked them to peer down at the twisting rivers and bleak deserts below, and they did.
As we reached our cruising altitude, I asked them to recline their seats, sip their drinks, and open their little bags of peanuts. Santiago’s skinny arm shot up in the air and he said, “But Mr. Minkel, we don’t have any peanuts!” I looked at him in disbelief and said, “We don’t have an airplane either, Santiago! This is all make-believe.”
About This Project
Teachers’ lives are packed with powerful moments: moments of triumph, frustration, absurdity, joy, revelation, and hilarity. We want to hear about them.
Submit your Tiny Teaching Story, in no more than 100 words, here.