What Starfish and Our Students Have in Common

teaching Nov 21, 2018

This starfish keychain hangs on the wall in my office. It reminds me why I choose to be an educator, why I work so hard for teachers and students. I know starfish and students seem quite different. But in this story, you’ll find they are similar. It’s not a new story. In fact, it’s been around for more than 30 years. I took a few liberties with the original tale, but the gist of it is the same.

The day after a storm a young woman was walking along a beach covered in starfish that had washed on shore during the storm. The woman made her way down the beach slowly. With each step, she bent, picked up a starfish and threw it back into the ocean. It was slow going, but she labored on.

With each starfish she threw back into the water, she stopped, gazed into the water and smiled before reaching for another.

An old man was watching her and shaking his head as he too made his way down the beach. When he got close to the woman he commented, “Why are you bothering? You can’t help them all. It’s impossible.”

The young woman replied as she threw another starfish into the water, “It matters to that one. If I can help even a few, it’s worth it.”

If we each do our part to help a few students to learn, to grow and to have a chance at a great future, we can help quite a few. Helping just a few each is worth all of the struggles we face each day as teachers.

So…what starfish and our students have in common is they matter.

Thank you for choosing to be a teacher. What you do every day really does matter.

All my best,



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