Leadership Symposium Early Bird Deadline Approaching | Join K-12 leaders nationwide for three days of empowering strategies, networking, and inspiration! Discounted pricing ends March 1. Register today.
Teaching Profession

Tiny Teaching Stories: ‘My Voice Is Terrible’

By Catherine Gewertz — January 03, 2020 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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.

Related Tags:

Edited by Catherine Gewertz


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Bilingual Teachers Are in Short Supply. How 3 Districts Solved That Problem
Helping bilingual paraprofessionals obtain bachelor's degrees and teaching credentials leads to more bilingual teachers, districts found.
9 min read
Elizabeth Alonzo works as a bilingual aide with 2nd grade student Esteycy Lopez Perez at West Elementary in Russellville, Ala., on Dec. 9, 2022.
Elizabeth Alonzo works as a bilingual aide with 2nd grade student Esteycy Lopez Perez at West Elementary in Russellville, Ala., on Dec. 9, 2022. Alonzo obtained her bachelor's degree through a partnership with Reach University and the Russellville city schools district.
Tamika Moore for Education Week
Teaching Profession Opinion How I’m Keeping Ahead of Burnout: 4 Tips for Teachers
An English teacher shares her best advice for battling the long-haul blahs until spring break.
Kelly Scott
4 min read
Young woman cartoon character making step from gloomy grey rainy weather to sunny clear day.
iStock/Getty + Education Week
Teaching Profession Opinion Why Is the Nation Invested in Tearing Down Public Education?
Education professor Deborah Loewenberg Ball argues that panic over test scores keeps us from building on the strengths of our children.
Deborah Loewenberg Ball
5 min read
Illustration of school text books and wrecking ball.
F. Sheehan for Education Week / Getty
Teaching Profession Teachers Censor Themselves on Socio-Political Issues, Even Without Restrictive State Laws
A new survey from the RAND Corporation found that two-thirds of teachers limit their instruction on political and social issues in class.
4 min read
Civics teacher Aedrin Albright stands before her class at Chatham Central High School in Bear Creek, N.C., on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. The class is debating whether President Trump should be impeached. The House impeachment inquiry into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine has become a teachable moment in classrooms around the country as educators incorporate the events in Washington into their lesson plans.
Civics teacher Aedrin Albright stands before her class at Chatham Central High School in Bear Creek, N.C., on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. The class was debating whether President Trump should be impeached. A new national survey found that a majority of teachers are now limiting instruction on political and social issues in class.
Allen G. Breed/AP