The Powerful Moments of Your Lives, Distilled
We asked 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’m Just Not Ready to Go Home Yet’
I was secretly ecstatic no one showed for optional Thursday tutoring, and was hurriedly tidying my desk when she popped her head in. “Miss, are you tutoring today?” If only I’d left five minutes earlier ... “Absolutely! What do you need help with?” She entered. “Nothing. I’m just not ready to go home yet.” In the next hour, she shared her story: her dad’s betrayal, resulting half-sister, divorce, custody battle. I asked if she was being hurt. “No abuse, just no love,” she said. At 5:15 p.m. she stood abruptly. “Sorry. It’s late.” I hugged her and said, “Next Thursday, then?”
8th grade English/language arts
El Paso, Texas
‘The Little Girl Who’d Given Me All That She Could’
“Open your gifts!” my eager students chorus right before the bell sounded for winter break. Peering into my bags, I see coffee mugs, paperweights, gift cards. My eye catches a crudely wrapped present sitting on the corner of the desk. I carefully pick it up and unravel the strings to unveil a stained Snoopy stuffed animal with a slight tear and a missing eye. I scan the faces looking at me and say, “Snoopy—my favorite!” I see a small smile arise from the little girl who’d given me all that she could with all her heart.
Desert Center, Calif.
‘By Late Spring He Was a U.S. Citizen’
As the school year started, a senior I barely knew stood chatting in my doorway. With a green card, he said, he’d work after graduation. College wasn’t a real option; his family never had enough money to pay for citizenship papers, let alone college.
I thought otherwise.
Online, we found a local group to help. For his citizenship, I ordered test flash cards and raised application funds. He got a test date quickly. By late spring he was a U.S. citizen, looking at colleges with his girlfriend.
Few things I’ve done in my life have been more random or rewarding.
International Baccalaureate coordinator
‘Thank You for Not Saying ‘But’’
“You didn’t say ‘but.’”
At first I couldn’t process her words or her meaning through her halting, tearful delivery. She gathered herself and said it again. “You didn’t say ‘but.’”
And then I knew. I knew that my last-day-of-the-year words had been just right.
“For as long as I can remember, teachers have been telling me, ‘You’re so smart, so talented … but you just don’t work hard enough.’” Her tears came faster, harder, as did mine. “Thank you for not saying ‘but.’”
12th grade Advanced Placement Literature
‘I Know They Will Not Pass’
My fourth year of teaching, three 5th grade special education students reading on a kindergarten level, sitting around a horseshoe table with me in the middle. They are taking the annual state reading assessment. I know they will not pass. They started 5th grade unable to read a word. Now they are diligently using their highlighters to look at every word, just like I taught them. I have tears in my eyes; they are trying to take this test the best they can. I am so proud of them.
Special education, 6th to 12th grade
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