We asked teachers to share their triumphs and frustrations, the hilarious or absurd moments from their lives, in no more than 100 words.
For more Tiny Teaching Stories, click here.
To submit your own story, click here.
‘For Good Instead of Mischief’
Stephen couldn’t sit in his desk without fidgeting, playing with his little Tech Deck fingerboard constantly, driving me mad. The kid with so much potential, if only he could harness that energy for good instead of mischief. One day in his freshman year, we made a deal. He wrote a contract saying, “I, Stephen, will do my work in class for the rest of the year.” We both signed it.
His senior year, he returned to my classroom almost unrecognizable. He handed me a rainbow fiber optic sphere he had made and said, “I’m sorry I gave you such a hard time. Thank you for believing in me.” I keep that sphere as a reminder of why I teach.
Rana El Yousef
High school chemistry
‘What If We Can Fly?’
I am so tired. I lay my hands on the faux-wood desk, hazy light filtering into the humid room. My 7th graders are buzzing, wide smiles. I’ve gifted all of us some time for them to work on projects.
Walking the room, I’m concerned they will “just talk” instead of “work.” A table of three is mid-conversation.
“What if we can fly, but we don’t know it?”
“What if we can fly, but our wings haven’t grown?”
The third: “What if our farts are supposed to help us fly?!”
We all break into silly laughter. Joyful, important work.
8th grade, English
‘I Wanted to Tell Them My Secret All Year’
I wanted to tell them my secret all year, but never found the right moment. These students looked up to me. What if they were disappointed once I told them it had only been my first year teaching?
My thoughts were interrupted as 11 smiling faces popped into our classroom holding a white poster that boasted our colorful caricatures. They presented me with this priceless handmade gift. Every student signed it and wrote me a personal note. We shared laughs and tears together one last time. My first year of teaching was complete and I didn’t want it to end.
11th and 12th grades, special education social studies
New York City
‘This Is Where He Needed to Be’
Almost everyone was there, and it felt like a victory to me. It was February break, and we had to finish biotech labs. When he walked in, I learned that his mother had passed away a few days before. I couldn’t comprehend why he would choose to be in school during this difficult time.
I spoke to him. He said that this is where he needed to be: His mother valued education as a tool for empowerment and his classmates made him feel powerful. Four months later, he graduated with honors and I understood why he’d come to that winter meeting.
11th and 12th grades, biology and human anatomy
Central Falls, R.I.
The scene: snack time, first day of school, and me, a first-year teacher, gravitating between feeling lucky to have landed a job and terrified of messing it all up. Eighteen 5th graders chatter. I flit between tables. I turn, and what do I see? A student doing a handstand in the middle of the room. A handstand!
Students stare: first at him, then at me, wondering how I’ll respond. That day, I choose to laugh. As students join in, all is right in the world of our classroom. The lesson: Given a “teachable moment,” respond with love first, guidance second.
5th grade, special education co-teacher
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.
Edited by Catherine Gewertz