When it’s the best job

“Miss, how long have you been teaching?” In one motion, he picks up a stool, arcs it under his body, and plunks himself down across from me. I stop eating my lunch and look up.

“More than 20 years. I’ve kind of lost count. Why?”

“Ok. So. You know how to make kids stop talking, right?” He’s taking up a lot of space – legs spread, elbows on my desk, newly-bearded chin balanced in his hands as he glares at me intently.


I’m not sure where he’s going with this line of questioning and it makes me a little nervous. He’s not an easy kid to read. He arrived at our school early last year, and his life before that was not easy. Heck, his life after that was not easy. He’s intense and funny and thoughtful, but he can be impulsive and independent well beyond what is good for him. When I taught him during that rocky first semester, I learned quickly that his questions are almost always multi-layered and that he wants real answers.

“It’s never that easy,” I tell him, and I think of some of our stand-offs in the classroom.

Some of those memories must occur to him, too, because we look hard at each other until I finally break. “Spill,” I say. “Who do you want to stop talking?”

Three ninth grade girls in the math class he’s peer tutoring are driving him crazy. “They talk all the time! They’re so rude! They don’t know what a great opportunity they have! Mr. W’s an excellent teacher.”

He’s already tried to divide and conquer. He’s figured out who’s the leader. He’s tried being nice…

-Pause here for a second-

He is a peer tutor.
He is working with 14-year-olds in a math class.
He’s seeking advice from teachers he respects because he wants to go to the classroom teacher with ideas.

He is a peer tutor.
He is helping out in a math class.
He is seeking advice from teachers.

We had a good talk, and I made a few suggestions. And I told him that the suggestions probably won’t work – who can stop three determined 9th graders from talking? – but I doubt he’ll give up.

When he left, I might have been a little teary. He’s a peer tutor. A peer tutor. I might be a little teary again right now. Sometimes teaching is the best job ever.


Come write your own slice of life and share on Tuesday at twowritingteachers.org

15 thoughts on “When it’s the best job

  1. I love that he respects the teacher in the math class so much that he is seeking out help… and that he came to you. That’s speaks to the community and the value he sees in what has been given to him there. Schools can be powerful places. ❤️


  2. I love this story so much. I have a lovely student aide in one of my junior classes. She sits on the couch and affirms everything I say as she teaches herself Stats. Having her in my room supporting my practice w/ her peers is a real gift. Your student is right: Those girls don’t understand the opportunity they have. I hope you get to hang on to that kid a while longer.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A real success story! Maybe the chatting grade 9 girls will be just as aware of what a good opportunity school is by the time they get to grade 12. I’m thinking a lot about this relationship building and how it really is the most important part of our job. Someone on Twitter the other night said that for some kids the “back-off” relationship is more easily accepted than the “get close” relationships. I think it’s true! We can’t force ourselves on them. But I’m glad that most of them still want to talk to me after they’ve moved to the other side of the school with the big kids.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like that phrase – the “back off” relationship. I’ve really learned to embrace that with my complex classes. I feel like there’s another whole post in there. But I’m not gonna lie – I love it when they come back 🙂


  4. And I’m betting that your classroom was an important step on his journey to peer tutoring…and potentially on his journey to so much more. How wonderful that he’s comfortable enough to turn to you for advice and support. That speaks volumes about your teaching and your relationship. Thanks so much for sharing this uplifting slice from your life.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I read this yesterday on my phone, but didn’t comment. (Tricky on the phone.) I love how this conversation went from teacher to student to teacher to teacher. And how you celebrate this relationship!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is an awesome story, Amanda. What an incredible conversation!

    I’d love to feature this slice as one of the “Be Inspired” pieces during the first few days of the March SOLSC. If that would be okay with you, please email me at stacey [at] staceyshubitz [dot] com and give me the okay.


    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post! I love how you led us slowly into the story. I was taken aback when you referred to him as a kid and then when his whole story emerged I was simply hooked! It did impress me that he commented on the fact that the girls are missing out because of their behavior. One of my third graders has had to go with his dad in days we have snow days. His dad teaches middle school math. He has commented to me about both their behavior and how little they seem to know. It has made him a stronger student, more engaged.


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