Anecdotes from veteran teachers
Crazier things have happened. When you’ve had one of “those days,” peruse these stories and know that you are not alone.
“Girl on guy fights are always interesting. So are fights that start because someone looks at someone wrong. I had a girl that always wanted to cause trouble. She was a ‘mean girl,’ a malicious, aggressive girl, and she was not a petite girl. One day, one of the boys in my class looked at her wrong, or something of the sort, and she exploded in the middle of class. She stood up and pushed over her desk and they got in each other’s faces. I calmly walked up to the boy and said ‘probation.’ He was already on probation from juvenile detention due to another violent offence. Once I said that, he stopped fast, but she started throwing blows. He backed out of the room and I quickly shut the door and she continued raving at the wall.”
– 6 years teaching English
Vagina and West Vagina
“One of the funniest happened to me last year. I was teaching a third grade lesson on states in the southeast region. I asked, ‘Who can name me two states that are in the southeast?’ This sweet little girl very innocently said Vagina and West Vagina. I quickly looked around the room for a reaction from the other kids. Nobody blinked an eye. I was laughing so hard inside trying to keep a straight face.” – 4 years teaching History
Knowing too much about their home lives
“One of the teachers in our building has a child in kindergarten. The kindergarten teacher took her out in the hall to test her on a few concepts. She said Susie can you tell me a word that rhymes with sit–Susie said tit. The teacher said how about cut–Susie said butt. Not believing what sweet little Susie was saying, she asked Susie what rhymes with fun–Susie said f*ck! The teacher’s lounge was full of uncontrollable laughter when Susie’s mom came in for lunch.” – 23 years teaching Elementary
So much puke
“One of the funniest things that happened to me during my twenty years in the kid business as an elementary school teacher was during a second grade musical performance. Five classes of singing seven year olds were arranged on risers on stage in front of a gym full of adoring parents and grandparents with video cameras. I was in the front row of the audience directly behind the music teacher directing the song, when one of my students, placed front and center on stage, began projectile vomiting the red fruit pop that the cafeteria had featured for dessert at lunch.
I vaulted on stage, grabbed a wastebasket on the way, and began trying to get him off of the stage with any decorum I could muster. Every eye on that stage and in the audience was on him and me, yet the second graders continued to sing and the music teacher continued to direct. We exited stage left behind the curtain and his mom met us at the door. The show went on to its successful conclusion. The humor in the whole situation was the tapes that parents showed me of the incident. Picture a teacher, unattractively bent over with her back to the audience, in fast forward mode trying to juggle a wastebasket under a vomiting child and get off stage. We stole the show! I still smile when I think of it. Even the student and his parents got over their embarrassment and thought it was cute. Needless to say, the music teacher always had a strategically placed wastebasket nearby for every show after that and alerted teachers about its location.”
– 20 years teaching Elementary
A simple “Thank you.”
“I’ve learned to just enjoy what I do. Most people want to find something they’re passionate about, and I was extremely enthusiastic about being given the opportunity to teach; even more so, on the other side of the world. I realized I have to teach everyday with the same enthusiasm I had when I was hired. It’s not about me. It’s about my students and how much I can help them and keep them committed to studying. In order to keep my students engaged I need them to feel as though I’ve invested everything in them. I want my students to be excited about coming to class. It’s not hard to become overwhelmed by long hours, disinterested students or absurd complaints from parents, but everything is worthwhile when I see how much my students have progressed. One of the best rewards is hearing, one simple phrase: ‘THANK YOU!!’” –3 years teaching English
“I was in the assistant principal’s office with a very large 8th grade middle school girl who was in trouble for fighting. The Assistant Principal said something that she apparently didn’t like, probably that he was calling her Mom and suspending her. She picked up an old, solid-wood chair and tossed it across the table at the Assistant Principal. He was young and quick and dodged it and it took out the glass in a picture on the wall. The young lady was put out of school as I intuitively knew she might be dangerous—tough call. Interestingly enough, the Assistant Principal became a Stock Broker the very next year.”
– 30 years as a School Psychologist
“I teach at a very small charter school. This year, I had a child in my first grade class who was very below grade level on top of having numerous behavior problems. He got special ed help, had his own reading specialist that our school provided and got to work with my TA every day on his own. During the 2nd quarter, he was still failing in my class so I brought this up to his parents. After numerous harassing emails from the parents to me saying what an awful teacher I was for letting him fail, I finally called my friend Sarah for advice. Sarah was another first grade teacher at a local school in the district. Taking her advice, many meetings were set up with the parents with the principal and school board. It was suggested that this child leave our school for it was too academically challenging and not a good fit for him.
The following week, my friend Sarah got the child in her class. Needless to say, she’s not very happy with me. Her advice backfired!” –8 years teaching Elementary
Students making escapes
“Patrick was a very small child for a 7-year-old because of Prader-Willie Syndrome. His temper was short, as were his fingers and body. One day in a tantrum, Patrick decided to totally dismiss my directions to him, and he continued a very loud verbal attack. He also refused to walk to the office with me, where I planned for the Assistant Principal’s help in dealing with him. So I picked him up around the waist and carried him down the hall, with Patrick yelling and punching me all the way. He never did this again. You could never do that now-a-days.
Another incident involved a nine-year-old named Michael who was kicked out of another school due to his ‘behaviors.’ My assistant and I treated him with ‘kid gloves’ most of the time, which quelled his outbursts. One particular day, Michael became angry over some small issue, and he proceeded to throw all of his textbooks across the classroom one at a time. The other students just stared. We determined that Michael needed to be seen immediately by the Assistant Principal. When we approached him to escort him out of the classroom, Michael started running around the room, ducking under desks and tables. Next he headed for an open window. We were able to just catch him by the waist before he made his escape into the parking lot.” –30 years teaching Special Education
Pretty sure he was on drugs
“I had a student my first year teaching who was always a bit rambunctious, but one day he came into class yelling ‘I’m freaking out. I’m freaking out.’ He was crawling under desks and popping up from behind chairs yelling ‘I’m freaking out.’ Clearly, he’d taken some kind of stimulant. He managed to bowl himself across the room into a stack of books before I had him escorted to the nurse.” – 8 years teaching English
I’m not that old am I?
“You know your student likes you when they say, “you remind me of my grandma.” It was a bit shocking at first, but when I thought about it – what a huge compliment.”
– 20 years Teaching Assistant
The “writing” on the wall
“In my third year teaching, I was teaching inclusion when all of the sudden a student decided to go to the bathroom standing up in the room. A sixth grade student pulled out his penis and peed a line down the wall. The special education teacher was not in the room and I didn’t have phone in the room. It was chaos! I called his name and he just looked at me and continued peeing. When he was done he just zipped back up and sat back down. Finally, I hailed a security guard down from the hallway. We ended up having to do a behavior intervention plan for the student.
At the same school, I had a student who would drink booze out of an apple juice container. She was so drunk one day that she laid down on the table and started rolling back and forth.” – 13 years teaching English
Off the cuff answers
“I was teaching family life to fifth graders and at the end you’re supposed to ask them if they have any questions. All the lessons are pretty generic so I wasn’t too worried, but one of the boys raised his hand and asked how long you could use a condom after the expiration date. I tried to maintain my composure. I took a deep breath and told him to think of it like milk, you can drink it past the expiration date, but I wouldn’t recommend it.” – 17 years Special Education
“I was teaching 11th grade. We were talking about Romanticism in English class, specifically about Moby Dick. I was up in front of the class and I said, ‘so this big dick…’ I meant to say ‘whale.’ I was twenty-three at the time and I was mortified. The whole staff found out about it and it was a joke all year.” – 13 years teaching English
“One time I tripped in the middle of teaching. I was wearing a skirt and I showed my hoo-ha to the whole class.”
– 12 years teaching Foreign Language
“I’ve been teaching so long that I’ve taught kids and then taught their kids. That’s pretty cool. You get to see two generations of a family.” –27 years teaching English
“When I was teaching eighth grade I had a kid who was a jerk to everyone. There are very few students in my entire career who I’ve really not liked and he was one of them. He had his own table because no one would sit with him. Another student in the class who was really quiet and zoned out most of the time got up in the middle of a test, walked over to the mean kid’s table, farted loudly, and returned to his seat. The kids looked at me for a reaction and I just pretended like I didn’t hear it and they went on with their test.
Another year, I had a kid who was big for his age. His mom was not really helpful. In fact, she was mean. The kid was always very polite, but he never did his work. At the end of the year, I had them write a letter to someone in the building who made a difference for them. He wrote his letter to me. In one paragraph he said that I should have been a lawyer because I can turn anything you say around on you. He said that I knew how to make students own their actions. He made a big deal about how I could have made a lot of money being a lawyer, but he guessed that I wanted to have fun coming to work every day instead. He said I was a mother figure to him and that he knew I always believed in him. I still have the letter and cry every time I read it.”
– 15 years in middle and high school English
“In my first year teaching, I had a student who had a lot of trouble at home. Apparently, the night before ‘the incident’ his mother kicked him out and I didn’t know that. He was acting out and I said something to him and he looked me straight in the face, said ‘F-you,’ overturned his desk and stormed out of the room. He slammed the door so hard that nearly the whole school heard it and security came running from all directions.”
– 5 years teaching Spanish
Out of place
“I’m from western Pennsylvania straight off the farm. My first year of teaching, I felt like something was tense, something not right was going on outside my classroom so I checked it out. There was a group of guys standing on one side of the hallway and another group on the other. One kid through down a handkerchief and I walked over and picked it up and said ‘you dropped your hanky.’ Before I knew what was happening a huge fight broke out. A kid physically picked me up and got me out of it. It was a gang situation. There was blood everywhere and two kids left on stretchers. There I was saying ‘you dropped your hanky.
I also had a kid who dressed as a fury at school. Note: I taught at an alternative school for students who struggled behaviorally or academically. He told me he was a mountain lion inside and he was always getting teased. I told him that his outfit was the reason that he was getting made fun of. One day, I explained that ‘this is why you’re a target.’ Then, in his IEP meeting later in the year, he told the group that I said he was retarded. He misunderstood ‘target.’ I explained it to him and he was like, ‘uh, yeah, I guess so.’ Yeah, you wear a fury outfit to an alternative school and you’re going to be a target.’” –11 years teaching English
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