Teaching Profession

Tiny Teaching Stories: ‘I Wish I Had Known’

By Catherine Gewertz — May 05, 2020 2 min read
tiny teaching 600 headerv1 Getty and Laura Baker Education Week

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.

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‘I Wish I Had Known’

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I didn’t know that when I told you to take a shower more often, your mom had told you never when you were home alone with dad. I didn’t know that when you went home you had to hide sometimes.

I didn’t know that you cried on the last day of school because you were scared to go home while your mom was at work. Even after you told me what your dad did, and that you were glad he was in jail, I didn’t know that you still loved him and worried about him.

I wish I had known.

Sarah Yannett
3rd grade
Madison, Wis.

‘She Was Finally Free’

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Her father disapproved of her transition and made it clear that we were not to use the female name or pronouns she’d chosen.

Her entire freshman year I called her Jacob and used male pronouns. She said using her given name was necessary to placate her father.

The next year, she was in my class again. I’d heard that her father pushed her down the stairs and she’d left home. I called her Jacob, and she jerked her heard toward me, glared. I immediately knew: She was finally free. From then on, it was only Nikki.

Kristen English
9th grade English
Baltimore

‘Giggles From the Front-Row Girls’

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Seven months pregnant but energetic enough to read Mercutio with enthusiasm, I paced before the board, gesturing wildly. Giggles from the front-row girls began just before “her long spinners’ legs,” small and polite. I paused curiously. The sweet one demurely pointed downward, a hand veiling her mouth. Thirty sets of eyes followed my own to the white polyester lace-trimmed circle on the floor. I lifted one foot, then another. I bent to lift the slipped slip, while laughs grew fat and round.

“Guess I don’t need that anymore,” I said, tossing it onto my desk. “Where were we?”

Angie Johnson
8th grade English/language arts
Stevensville, Mich.

‘He Would Not Graduate’

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I had a senior who slept a lot and missed a number of days. He worked after school until 11:00 p.m. daily. He missed his last test and would not graduate. The cutoff date was close.

With the help of my special education coordinator, I arranged to get him to school to take his test. He came back to show me the tickets to his graduation. He was so excited. This simple gesture made my job worthwhile.

Melvin Williams
Statesboro, Ga.
Paraprofessional, 11th and 12th grade U.S. history

‘Pure Love’

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One of my students brought me a gift today, wrapped in the same bag and tissue paper as the one I gave to him at Christmas. Inside was a homemade card, which said: “I love you. I love you. You’re the best teacher.” The gift: a picture he colored; two green popsicle sticks, glued into a letter F; two coupons for eggs and milk, and $1.

He made me crafts! And the $1—which to him is like a million dollars—he could’ve used to buy popcorn!

Pure love. Generosity. Beautiful.

I’m so glad to be a teacher.

Kathleen Ferguson
2nd grade
Schenectady, N.Y.

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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