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The Final Final

An unforgettable moment with an unforgettable class

By Ahna LewisPublished 11 months ago Updated 10 months ago 5 min read
Top Story - April 2023
Photo Credit: Daniel de la Hoz - iStock Photo

Teaching is undoubtedly a taxing career. There are days that chip away at my resolve and I start to question everything. It’s the days when I work 16 unpaid hours on the weekend just to keep my head above water. It’s the days when what I think are brilliant lesson plans end up in chaotic confusion or even worse…a sea of blank stares. It's the days when the “friendly” reminder box on our online learning platform cheerfully informs me that I have 312 assignments waiting to be graded. It’s the days when students seem bored or tired and complain about everything—even when I’ve poured my best efforts into making the lessons engaging. It’s the days when the State Board of Education adds yet another requirement, another hoop we have to jump through. These are the days when my youthful optimism, my passion for this amazing profession, starts to fade.

One of my college professors once told us to keep a desk drawer full of positive memories—reminders of why we chose teaching. She said to fill the drawer with notes from students, creative projects, evidence of progress. She wanted us to have a space to reflect on those small, everyday victories. Now that I’m nearly 10 years into this career, this is one of the best pieces of advice I've ever received. When I feel trapped under the weight of one of “those days,” I open the drawer and celebrate the victories, re-read the notes, review the progress, and remind myself that all of this matters. Even when I don’t feel it, I teach because it matters.

This story is one of those “desk drawer” moments. It’s a memory I will keep filed within me forever. It may be a small moment, but it had an incredible impact on the teacher I am today.

~ ~ ~ ~

It’s the last day of finals week. There’s just one more exam standing between my students and summer break. The rays of June sun make the classroom uncomfortably warm and the unconditioned air is starting to get stale. Pencils scratch vigorously across the exam pages as students carefully craft each sentence. I sit at the teacher’s desk, monitoring their progress. I watch as they furrow their brows in concentration. Occasionally, they pause to sigh, look out the window, or stretch cramped hands. They may not realize it, but I am thinking about their futures. I wonder where they will be next year, in four years, as adults? Did anything we learned this year really matter? Are they even going to remember?

It’s been just over an hour, and I notice several students are getting close to finishing—a moment I’ve been waiting for and dreading all at the same time. Of course I want the exam to be over, who wouldn’t? But the fact is, when it’s over, the school year is over. They walk out of my classroom for the last time. This particular combination of people together in this space will in all likelihood never happen again. I swallow the lump in my throat, trying my best to keep it together. How embarrassing would it be to cry at a final exam—especially an exam I’m not even taking!

The first student approaches my desk, holding out her exam paper. I glance quickly through it, making sure she has completed all the sections. When I look up, she smiles and places a shiny red apple on my desk.

“Thanks for being my teacher,” she speaks softly so as not to disturb the others.

My face crinkles into a smile. Her gift was such a sweet gesture. I love apples and am inspired by the symbolic and historic significance of the gift. It seems to add a sense of closure, to make the good-bye a little easier as she packs her book bag and takes that first step outside the classroom door.

Less than five minutes later the second student approaches my desk. As I check through his exam for completion, he brings his hand from behind his back and holds out an apple.

“Thanks for a great year.”

Smiling, I take the apple and place it beside the first. How delightful that two students had the exact same idea.

The third student soon comes forward—test in one hand and an apple in the other.

“Thank you, Ms. Lewis.” He puts the apple beside the other two.

Then the fourth student comes, then the fifth, and just as before, they each bring an apple. There’s no longer any doubt in my mind—this shower of apples has been carefully planned, an orchestrated clockwork of student scheming. As the pile of fruit continues to grow, my heart swells with gratitude and love for these kids. My eyes well with tears as the final student places an apple on my desk.

“Have a great summer, Ms. Lewis. I’m going to miss you.”

That did it. I’m officially crying now. She walks out of the room and it’s just me and 15 apples piled on my desk.

Though the work of teachers is intrinsically rewarding, we don’t always receive such a tangible expression of thanks from our students. I realize how immensely grateful I am to have this group of students in my life and what a gift it’s been to be their teacher. I pick up the nearest apple, smiling at the sparkling cascade of school year memories. It’s going to be a long time before I can eat an apple without thinking of that final day of finals with such an incredible class.

For all those days when I might feel like teaching was a mistake, this desk drawer moment reminds me it has been more than worth it.

Okay, it wasn't nearly this many apples...I just thought it would be a good visual, haha


About the Creator

Ahna Lewis

Just a high school English teacher who never quite got over her dream of becoming an author. :)

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  2. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

  3. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  4. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

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Comments (40)

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  • Yusuf Alam18 days ago

    💯💯💯👌👌👌Ahna This Island Is Made Entirely of Gemstones

  • Sathishkumar S2 months ago

    love it

  • StoryholicFinds4 months ago

    love it! ❤️

  • Naveed 5 months ago

    11. Super!!! Excellent story!!!

  • Kim Loostrom9 months ago

    Well now I’m tearing up at work! You must be an outstanding teacher, your students are lucky to have you!

  • Bhaskar Singh9 months ago

    Very inspiring and motivating Ahna. Your stories certainly act as a driving force for a positive consciousness in every aspect of life. Lovely content! Keep writing and growing! You will surely reach your destination Ahna 😊👍❤️

  • K. C. Wexlar9 months ago

    great story - keep up the good work!!

  • Jacob Damian10 months ago

    this is really a Wonderful story. Congrats keep it up

  • L.C. Schäfer10 months ago

    The youth of today, eh 😁

  • I finally got around to reading this. It was worth the wait. I loved this memory. Teachers are amazing people who give so much of themselves for their work. I think anyone who is a writer can tell you about the first teacher who encouraged their work. I know I can. What a wonderful story. Well deserved win.

  • Gina C.10 months ago

    Oh, such a sweet memory! 🤗❤️ I enjoyed this so much! I can't believe I haven't made it over here yet...huge congrats on your placement in the challenge!! So well-deserved! A teacher myself, it is indeed so rewarding when these golden moments happen out of the many other stressful, tiring, defeated-feeling ones. 🥹❤️❤️ This is such a lovely story!

  • R. J. Rani10 months ago

    Congratulations dear Ahna!!! So well deserved! 🤗

  • Donna Renee10 months ago

    Congratulations!!! 🥰🥰🥰

  • Naomi Gold10 months ago

    I could’ve sworn I commented on this, but I guess I just liked it and forgot to come back! I very much enjoyed this. Growing up, I was the bullied outcast and usually the teacher’s pet. I had a special bond with English teachers in high school. Those kids will never forget you. Let’s face it, most of what we learn in school we never use, aside from language! This was such a sweet story of your student’s acknowledging you. Congrats on your win. 🍎

  • Loryne Andawey11 months ago

    This was such a heartwarming and rewarding read. My fiance is a teacher and I see him going through exactly what you did. I'll send this over to him 😄

  • Dana Crandell11 months ago

    I absolutely loved this! My most rewarding years were the few that I was teaching! Congratulations on the well-deserved Top Story!

  • ARC11 months ago

    Ahna, this is beyond… 💫 You shared this moment with such beauty and authenticity, such richness of language. I felt each element… the pencils scratching… the warmth in the still room… that we-don’t-have-a-word-in-English-for-it almost-purgatory-like feeling of the moment the student is walking from their desk to yours to turn in their test… and then the apples. Wow. Beauty beyond description, and you described it so very well. What a moment. Thank you for sharing it with us 🙏 🍎

  • R. J. Rani11 months ago

    Oh my goodness, Ahna, I find myself crying right alongside you. You write so simply beautifully. I’m grateful for teachers like you who bring such much goodness and warmth from young students. Thank you for a wonderful story! ❤️🍎

  • mohamed nawfan11 months ago

    So happy to see this as a Top Story.....

  • JBaz11 months ago

    So glad you got a top story for this. Read again and once more the tears. Congratulations

  • Kendall Defoe 11 months ago

    Respect for this one! I teach at a college, and I know what you are going through...and how wonderful it is to get even one acknowledgement of all the hard work you do. Great Top Story...and enjoy them apples! ;)

  • I wish I could keep hitting the Heartfelt and Relateable button. I love the idea of your professor: "One of my college professors once told us to keep a desk drawer full of positive memories." Looking back on pictures of my earliest students and nice notes over the years remind me that I have made an impact. All the apples reminds me of the scene from "A Christmas Story" where Ralphie aims to impress with his gift basket. LOL! Congratulations on Top Story!

  • Roy Stevens11 months ago

    Top Drawer Story!!

  • Shane Dobbie11 months ago

    Top Story indeed.

  • Donna Renee11 months ago

    So happy to see this as a Top Story!!! Congrats!

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