Teaching Profession

Tiny Teaching Stories: ‘My Voice Is Terrible’

By Catherine Gewertz — January 03, 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.


‘My Voice Is Terrible’


It was my first year at a new school, and when I thought I had exhausted every ounce of myself, I lost my voice.

I wrote on the board:

“Hi. My voice is terrible, please read the additional instructions for today.”

(I grabbed some copies before the bell rang.)

I return to find:

*One student holding the door open and welcoming each student in, and giving a compliment, “because you do that for us.”

*The word “terrible” replaced with “wonderful” and a number of other positive comments.

*All students asking to do my job.

Students notice us; EVERYTHING SPEAKS.

Kirby Schmidt
Grades 7-12 agriscience
Deer River, Minn.

‘I Go to a School That Teaches You to Read’


Quan arrived at my 1st grade classroom daily with his fast-food breakfast and sat in the back. As tall as a middle schooler, and as street-smart as an adult, he came to us recognizing only one word: his name.

I tried dozens of reading strategies with him over a few months, including writing songs and jump-roping to the alphabet. When I met his mother to discuss Quan’s educational path, she said he’d stepped off a bus in his neighborhood recently, and the children asked where he’d been. He proudly responded, “I go to a school that teaches you to read.”

Kathryn Starke
K-5 literacy
Richmond, Va.

‘Now I Knew Who It Was’


Her wink gave her away. For three weeks, I’d started class with a poem, selected to demonstrate the power of language.

I invited my students to share their own or others’ poems. Few did. But someone was leaving poems taped to my door, each mysteriously signed, “Student of 2020.” Clipped from magazines, found online, or in books, each poem spoke to her—and to us—about the many ways words can soar or sing when shared.

We didn’t use them for evaluation or outcomes, but for the love of words. And now I knew who it was leaving me poems.

Glen Young
12th grade English
Petoskey, Mich.

‘Apologizing for the Bullies’


Teachers CAN survive and thrive after an awful first year. I wasn’t anonymous in the small Nebraska town where I began teaching, so students could easily make harassing phone calls, steal things from my mailbox, and vandalize my car. I didn’t get enough support from my overwhelmed first-year principal, but I should have reached out to other people, too.

A year ago, as I was planning to retire, a student from that first year sent me a Facebook message apologizing for the “bullies” in the school. I’m glad I didn’t let that awful first year drive me from the profession.

Barbara Gottschalk
K-5 English as a Second Language
Troy, Mich.



I’m outside walking around on recess duty and two little girls I don’t know come up and give me a hug.

Girl 1: Mr. Gerber, give me knuckles.

We fist bump.

Girl 1: You look like my Grandpa Murray.

Me: He must be really handsome.

Girl 1: No, he’s just really old.

Girl 2: You don’t look like my Grandpa Smith, but he’s really old, too.


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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