Teaching Profession

Tiny Teaching Stories: ‘I Have Dreams’

By Catherine Gewertz — April 06, 2020 2 min read
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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.


‘I Have Dreams’


He sat at his self-selected, isolated desk. Sixteen years old in the 8th grade, he was friendless and often teased by his peers. He came to school daily but did only the minimum to get by.

One hot June day, after I ushered students out of the door, I found a letter from him on my desk. “I’m not stinky D. I’m not stupid D,” it said. “I have dreams. I will make my grandma proud.”

He enrolled in a credit recovery program shortly after that. I think about him often. I hope he accomplished his dreams.

Theresa Bruce
8th grade social studies

‘You’re Leaving Too?’


For my first teaching job, I took over for a teacher who quit in the middle of a lesson by dropping his books on the floor and muttering, “You all can fail.” I spent time building relationships. Then it was time for some structure, like a new seating chart.

Expecting resistance, I warned my students that I was going to do something they might not like at first. A few students looked up and said, “Miss, you’re leaving too?”

What a wake-up call! My students were worried about abandonment, not seating charts.

Shveta Miller
Formerly high school English
New York City

‘Sometimes It Is Worth Putting Up With the Mess’


I was teaching in a temporary trailer classroom. It snowed. Students trudged in an inordinate amount of muck. One student arrived late. He had built a tiny snowman. “Can we dress him?” he asked. The 25 students gathered around my desk, offering suggestions. It was a happy mess. The snowman stayed in the freezer.

A year later, at the snowman-builder’s funeral, a student said: “That was the greatest lesson. We all worked together, and you put up with the mess.” Sometimes it is worth putting up with the mess to get the message across.

Deborah J. Smyth
English/journalism 7-12
Fairfax, Va.

‘I Saw a Student Licking My Shoe’


While teaching a grade 1 health lesson about the five food groups, the students were sitting on the carpet in front of me. I felt something on my foot, I looked down and I saw a student licking my shoe.

I said what are you doing? And he said talking about food made me hungry, so I wondered what your shoe tasted like ... it’s gross.

Cristina Gonzalez
Health science grades 1-6
Châteauguay, Quebec, Canada

‘A Present Wrapped in Paper From the Recycling Bin’


I had a student move in with one of the toughest backgrounds I had ever heard. She turned out to be a delightful, hard-working, and caring young lady. She had nothing. My wife and I sent food home every week and collected clothing for her.

The last day before break, she brought me a Christmas present wrapped in paper from the recycling bin. It was presented with a smile and the insistence that I open it right there. It was a drinking glass and a half can of peanuts. I cried. I still use that glass.

Larry Gerber
5th grade
Cody, Wyo.

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.

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Edited by Catherine Gewertz


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