Ms. Hempel is a seventh-grade English teacher. She is stressed because she must write her yearly "anecdotals", which are personalized student evaluation letters. Ms. Hempel recognizes the difficulty of trying to capture a person on the page, and she also feels the pressure to write eloquent paragraphs to prove her worth as an English teacher. Meanwhile, she is still coping with the death of her father, who passed away a year ago. He had been her greatest fan and accomplice growing up, but she remembers being embarrassed by him and his eccentricity at times. She recalls that he didn't allow her to use swear words, because he claimed that swear words are used by ordinary people, and she's extraordinary. Now, Ms. Hempel decides to assign Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life to her seventh graders, a book that has a lot of swear words. Her students are enthralled by the book, but parents question Ms. Hempel for her pedagogical choices on Parents Night. She explains how the memoir is relatable for the students, provides a sense of hope, and most of all, sparks their desire to read. Ms. Hempel ends up having the students write their own anecdotals—a letter they write from the perspective of their teacher writing to their parents. Each letter shows how the students truly view themselves or wish others would view them. Ms. Hempel then recalls speaking at her father's funeral a year back—the anecdote she told about her father had been misinterpreted by her grandmother. While Ms. Hempel had meant it to be a story about "danger and intrigue", her grandmother thought it was a "beautiful" anecdote about "safety and concern".