This is a favorite teacher story of mine. It's written by a NC high school teacher about a chance encounter early in his career that made a big difference in his teaching life.

http://snipr.com/teachgoodthings

There are some other good stories that meet Kevin's test -- stories that stick -- at this essay archive at Teacher Magazine. "What Mattered Most to Keysha" and "The Kid Who's Sleeping in Row 3, Desk 2" are a couple of my favorites. The latter has a definite Classroom 2.0 message embedded!

http://snipr.com/tm_tlnarchive

Here's a question -- are the teacher stories that enlighten the public different than the stories that inspire teachers themselves?

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This is a great question. I would think not but there is something unique about the teacher/mentor relationship that may come with emotional specificities that are hard to quantify. I have to think about this longer. : )
Yes, absolutely. Teacher stories that enlighten the public are the ones that counteract the way the public sees teachers. Any adult who was once a child thinks that he or she "knows" what teachers think, how we act, why we do what we do. Stories for the public therefore tend towards the redemptive. "Look," the story says, "teachers have hearts and minds and good intentions." The other for-the-public story is the story meant to open minds regarding the state of kids today, or yesterday, and is again redemptive. Stories of children who were wonderful, and who were not seen as such by their peers, or stories of poverty and struggle are both media favourites. They are heartstring -tugging, but the theme is definitely redemption in nearly all cases.

Stories that stick for teachers are the ones that remind us why we continue to care. We don't need redemption of our self image. We know that there are teachers out there who...how can I put it delicately?...who have not met our personal bar for professional and ethical behaviour. We know we're not the ogres in the classrooms, the monsters slaying creativity, the hidebound haters of youth. So those for-the-public stories are a relief, as they add a little support to our protests of "That's not me" but they do not touch us the same way.

A story that sticks for a teacher is one where we won. It's a child's smile. It's a cup of tea with a grownup who remembers something you did very casually as having changed their life. A teacher story that sticks emphasizes that the extra few miles we all walk, daily, matter. It's seeing a change in the world for the better and knowing that the struggles we face, the adminstration and the funding, the discipline and the heartache, the failures and the frustrations, can be, just for this moment, countered by a success. On such small successes are great teachers fueled.

No one enters this profession as a snarling bundle of resentment and privilege. Lacking success, however, can drive even the best of us to our worst. No, leave the stories of redemption for the public who damn us. Our stories are the stories of the damned, peering upwards through smoke of accusations and red tape, towards the light of a better world. Our stories are hope and success, love and joy, harmless failures and successes made significant by their context.

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