A touching tribute

Syda Productions/Shutterstock

Years ago, while teaching first grade, I was giving directions for a writing assignment. I described the usual format: capital letters and punctuation. I stated that this particular task would be about a person whom they admired, someone who was important to them. We spoke of moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas. I ended my explanation and told them to begin. Then I saw his hand. I walked over to my student, who could be quite challenging at times. In his quiet voice, he asked, “Can I write about you?” It’s those moments that make me stay. —Melissa O’Connor, Sunrise, Florida These are the things your child’s teacher will never tell you.

"Thank you for your service"

Slavko Sereda/Shutterstock

A group of uniformed servicemen was exiting a restaurant as a group of teacher friends and I walked in wearing our school shirts. I thanked them for their service. As they walked away, I heard one say, "They’re the ones who work in a war zone of runny noses, stacks of papers, and a thousand questions a day. I prefer my job!" Coming from a military family, I was both humbled and amused by our mutual admiration. —Stephanie Woodard, Missouri City, Texas

A purr-fect answer

Liderina/Shutterstock

As a kindergarten teacher, I work with students of different reading abilities. One day, I was helping a student who was struggling to learn the letter sounds. I used flash-cards with letters and pictures to help. I showed him the letter “S” and a picture of a snake to emphasize the sound. SSS, snake. Next was the letter “C.” He couldn’t remember the sound, so I showed him a picture of a cat. When I asked him to tell me the sound of letter “C,” he looked puzzled and said, “Meow?” —Aimee Ashby, McAllen, Texas Don’t miss these hilarious real-life teacher stories.

Unexpected praise

racorn/Shutterstock

One day while substitute teaching for a kindergarten class, I had recess duty for their second recess of the day. Upon going outside, I commented to the teacher aide also on duty that I felt like all I had done was yell all day and that the students probably thought I was mean. One of my kindergarten girls, who was spending the whole 15 minutes of second recess in time out for several infractions that took place earlier that day, looked over. “Mrs. Rorabaugh,” she said, “you’re not mean—you’re nice." —Susan Rorabaugh, Ada, Ohio These are the inspiring books every teacher must read.

Headin’ west

Vasilyev Alexandr/Shutterstock

Billy was the resident cowboy of my kindergarten class, coming to school each day dressed in chaps, a vest, and a cowboy hat. One morning, he excitedly told me that his mother was going to have a baby. “I’m going to teach my little brother all the things every cowboy should know, like how to ride a horse and rope a steer,” he exclaimed. “But,” I cautioned, “what if your mother gives you a baby sister?” Billy had never considered this, and the possibility stunned him. He gazed out the window for a moment, before saying with resignation, “Then I’m headin’ west.” —John Cimics, Midland, Texas

Literally speaking

Zwiebackesser/Shutterstock

One day while I teaching kindergarten, the office announced that we should send students who needed to take makeup school portraits to the gymnasium. Forgetting that my five-year-olds are very literal, I called one of the girls to my desk. "Sweetie, you need to go to the gym now for makeup pictures," I said. She stopped and looked at me with the strangest expression. "Exactly how much makeup are they going to be putting on me?” she asked. “’Cause I don’t think my mom is going to like that very much!" —Kimberly Hatton, Tuscumbia, Alabama

Student teachers

ESB Professional/Shutterstock

I searched the fleet of yellow mini buses for the seven preschoolers assigned to my class. Whirling bundles of energy tumbled down the bus steps each morning. Feeling motivated and confident, I rearranged the classroom tables to form learning stations along the walls. Surely, this would engage my young learners. Well, perspective can be defined as a point of view. Where I saw a creative setup, my students saw a runway down the center of their classroom. The kids spent the entire day running, jumping, and spinning out of control, taking off as airplanes. I finally understood: They would teach me how to teach children with autism." —Carole Tobey, Tuckahoe, New York