National Writing Project

What I Didn't Know: True Stories of Becoming a Teacher

Date: May 4, 2017

Summary: Teaching is a challenging profession. It is also incredibly rewarding. What brings teachers to teaching? What makes them stay, despite all the challenges? What I Didn't Know: True Stories of Becoming a Teacher brings together 20 teaching stories that explore the range of possible answers to these questions. In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, we talked with the editor of the book and several contributing teacher-writers about their stories.


Excerpt from Show

Marcia DeSanctis reads from her essay in What I Didn't Know:

Those first days, I moved as if buoyed by water, propelled by the relentless and satisfying drift of the school day. I taught five lessons, tried to learn the students' names, and already, I was ashamed to say, had formed opinions about them. I could already see who was serious, who hated French class, and who hoped their substitute teacher would give them a free ride. I sensed who was sucking up, and who made excuses for missing homework, and I tried my best to nod compassionately and believe them. It surprised me how quickly, sometimes just by an intensity in their gaze, I could spot a student with a ferocious drive to excel, and they popped up regularly."

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Duration: 59 minutes

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