_Sometimes teachers just have to shake their heads at the ridiculous stuff their students say and do. Check out these stories on AskReddit about the most memorable 'lost causes' that plagued the classroom. _
Source list available at the end.
I’m a second grade teacher. I once had a boy who lied constantly about everything. He was on camera once, watching the footage of himself punching a student in the face, when he crossed his arms and said, “If I didn’t do it, then I didn’t do it.” The worst part is, his mom believed every word he said and attacked the school for making him accountable for his actions.
He’s going to do something as an adult and go to jail. When they put him away, I know he’s going to be yelling, “If I didn’t do it, then I didn’t do it!”
String A Few Sentences Together
I had a senior student say she didn’t think it was “fair” (I’ve grown to hate that word by the way) that my exams used short answer questions instead of multiple choice. She said, “Some of us just aren’t good writers!” I responded with, “If you’re a senior in college, and you can’t string a few sentences together, well then, something has gone wrong.” She stormed out of class.
What Planet Is This?
I was covering cells and organelles in a lesson. I was passing around a model of a cell that highlighted organelles, what they looked like, and where they were located.
It gets to this one girl. She takes a look at it and says, “What planet is this?”
The Cool Kind
“I want to be a drug dealer, but the cool kind. You know like the ones that wear a suit and carry a briefcase.” He was 17 at the time and completely serious. He was expelled a month later for jumping another student.
No Effort Being Made
I had one student at a bilingual school in Mexico, who after being at this school and supposedly learning English for 5+ years, still couldn’t speak it and barely tried to make any effort to learn anything. She didn’t do assignments and failed almost every test. When we mentioned it to her parents, their attitude was: “She doesn’t really need it because she will just marry someone who will take care of everything for her.” My thoughts were: “Who would want to marry someone who doesn’t know anything and makes no effort?”
“I don’t have to get good grades. My grandfather owns a house. When he dies, my family is going to sell it for millions. That way, I’ll never have to get a job.”
Kid (being totally serious): “I’m going to drop out. I’ll make money off of YouTube.”
Me: “How many views are your videos getting?”
Kid: “I have four subscribers, so I just need a few more.”
Yesterday, I was in a store. There was a child there who was maybe 9 or 10. From the way she interacted with me, I could tell exactly how her mother would interact with a person. This child stood next to me as I looked through the clothes with her arms crossed. She huffed loudly and told me I was in her way. She then complained when I picked something she had wanted.
I am a teacher, but the quote is from my sister, “I don’t need to go to college because it’s easier to see God when you’re in the gutter.”
Five years later, she’s in a trailer with her abusive fiancé.
I had a student who was always acting up. I constantly tried talking to him about his behavior, and I wrote plenty of referrals. Throughout all of this, I would email and call his mother but never got a response.
One day, he was pacing around and texting someone. I told him to put his phone away and he said, “I can’t. I’m not too happy right now.” I said, “Will you take it out to the hall, and I’ll give you one minute?”
His response really shocked me. He said, “No, I’ll sit down. I just want my mom to turn the water back on.”
When all you know about a student is what you see in the classroom, it can be easy to forget they may not have a great home life. So I did wonder, “Is there hope for him?” It wasn’t truly any fault of his own, he just had a home life where he was stricken by poverty.
Throwing Chairs and Desks
I had a first grader throw chairs and desks at me for about a week. This was after 2 months of horrific behavior that the parents and administration ignored. One hit me hard enough that it injured my knee before I finally had enough video evidence for the principal to get involved. The student refused to speak to me at all. Eventually, my co-teaching partner got him to explain why he was doing it. “I just don’t like him.”
I feel bad for the kid. He has some serious emotional problems. I don’t know if I’d say there is no hope left because he is only in the first grade, but I hope he gets treatment.
On Friday, a student told me that she and her mom were walking down the street behind an old man. The old man reached into his pocket for something and all of his money fell out onto the sidewalk. The mom and daughter ran to pick it all up. When the old man tried to take it back from them, they told him it was their money and to go to hell.
I asked my students what they could have done to better prepare themselves for their exam. One responded with, “You should have told me to revise better.” Apparently, the revision sheets and saying, “This is REALLY important” just wasn’t enough.
I had one student who was in grade nine, and the more I got to know him, the more I realized he was kind of messed up. Not only could he barely read or write (even his own name was a struggle), but he lacked basic life experiences that even the harder cases I worked with had. Anyhow, he was gifted at shoplifting and knew how to survive on the streets for weeks if necessary. He’d been removed from his home more than ten times and always ended up being returned. He begged for help from various departments and agencies to no avail. I did what I could, sometimes more than what I was allowed to, and taught him the most basic reading and writing skills.
One day, he casually mentioned his plan to end his life as that was the only positive thing he could look forward to. I got him into a professional support group, but he quickly left because he had no trust in professionals. The short version of the outcome is, he is still alive and has been returned to his “family.” He no longer attends school, still plans that one day he won’t be around, but he keeps in contact with me during his “hard times.”
I struggle to understand what he has already been through in his life. I can’t imagine where he will end up (nor do I want to), and I’m afraid of the day I hear he is not around anymore. I do have hope for him, but experience tells me different.
I teach first year U.S. law students and more than you would care to believe don’t know America has three branches of government, much less what those branches do.
Hold Their Hands
My mom is a nursing instructor, and she has some horror stories about people who have become nurses. The bad students are rude and entitled. They either skip their work, lie on it, or expect my mom to do every assignment with them step-by-step after class. When the student starts to fail because they are not meeting the standards, the people above my mom will give them alternative (easy, busy work) assignments so that they can pass the program, and the school will still have good statistics. If you get a nurse someday who seems incompetent, they probably are.
Actions Speak Louder
“It’s not what they said, it’s what they didn’t say,” I asked him to read out loud, and he just stared at the paper. I soon found out he read at a kindergarten level as a 5th grader.
He didn’t want to put in the work himself. Instead, he just waited for someone to read it for him. His comprehension was there, but he wanted everything spoon fed to him.
Rules Don’t Apply
My wife had a student in the third grade who refused to do any writing assignments. My wife told him she was going to call his parents to explain to them what was going on if he didn’t start doing his work. He said, “I don’t care. My mom told me I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do because rules don’t apply to me.” My wife called his mom and his mom told my wife that she (meaning my wife) just had to understand how her son was, and if he didn’t want to do the work, then he didn’t have to. His behaviors all made sense after that, and it was a very tough year. He stopped doing all of his work and started harassing other kids (probably, partially, due to boredom since he was doing nothing else by the end of the year). As long as he was happy, my wife couldn’t get the mom on board.
I spent 15 minutes on a math lesson, did examples, gave out a worksheet, did one ON the worksheet with them, and a student still asked, “So, you just want us to fill this in with random numbers?” I was speechless.
No Consequences For Sexual Assault
I’ve got a class of eighth-grade students, and we just got a new student. In his first week, he proceeded to grab a female student’s butt with both hands. I called him up to my desk and asked him if he knew what unwanted touching was. Without any emotion, he said that “yes” he did know, but he was new and needed to make a name for himself. I immediately sent him to the office. The saddest part about all of this… the response I got from the administration on how the student was spoken to about the situation, and I needed to make sure they didn’t sit near each other again. There was no consequence for the assault which meant, you could be assured, something like this would happen again.
“When is the teacher coming?” This wasn’t the first lesson I had with this child.
“Okay I need you guys to name some countries for me, let’s make a list!”
I get a few examples and then “Africa!”
I proceed to explain the concept of a continent.
“So wait, Africa is a country inside of a country? Like Tasmania is a country but it’s in Australia?”
Please keep in my that this was a grade 11 high school class.
Ol’ Happy feet.
A seventeen-year-old girl who saw birds walking around outside her classroom and said, “Look, that bird has feet! And so does that one!”
It’d be pretty warm in there.
I’m a high school Earth Science teacher. I had an 11th grader says, “Wait, we don’t live INSIDE the Earth?”
Memes are the dream.
I asked a kid what he wanted to do when he grew up and his answer was “I dunno, something to do with memes.”
Sure is toasty down there!
My 12-year-old son told me of an exchange a fellow student of his had with their science teacher, in which the student attested that it was her understanding that the Sun was located on the Earth’s equator, which is why it is so much warmer there. I can only imagine what must have gone through that poor woman’s head hearing that.
Not the major for you.
I teach Computer Science at a university. I get a lot of freshmen that plucked the major because they heard it was a high paying major but don’t actually like the subject.
But the worst was a recent student that asked if they could just do the assignments by hand. They didn’t want to use a computer, they didn’t really like using them. “People use computers too much, I don’t want to start doing that.” They thought computers could do too much and wanted people to stop using them. This is a programming course. For computers. In a major about making computers do things. You are gonna need to use a computer.
Not Chasing You
University professor here. A student last term never purchased the textbook, so he never did his homework, sat in the back of the classroom, spaced out for the entire class, failed one exam, and then barely passed the other. He came to me during the final week of class and asked if he could do all of his missed assignments, and then he asked me why I didn’t remind him to do them. This is a university, I’m not chasing after you.
Unable To Think
I’m a college prof and this happened to a colleague of mine. Two students came into office hours to complain that his biology class was unfair because, “Your exams discriminate against students who can’t think.” He swears this was their exact quote.
My wife told me this story about a time she was lecturing a kid on why he should try to do well in school. She asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up and his response was, “I want to be in jail. That’s where my dad and uncle are.” She had no response. This was probably the only time in here career she was left speechless by a student.
A student emailed me to set up a parent-teacher conference between me and his mom to discuss his class performance and grades.
He used his personal email address, “xxStonerKing420xx.”
This was a university student.
“I know where I’m going.”
I was teaching math to disaffected high school students, so to get the year started I would ask two questions: ‘Who has to do more math work, students who hate it or students who love it?’
The answer is always, ‘Students who love it!’ which is of course wrong, since students who love it take the required classes early and don’t need to take any more within the first couple years of high school (“have to,” is cheating a bit here). In the meantime, students who hate it fail and repeat the same boring work over and over. So if you want to get done with math, get motivated, come see me after class, get this stuff into your brain and get onto the stuff you really want to do with you life. Some students found this silly, some found it really inspiring.
Second question: ‘What do you want for a career? Will you need any math?’
One of the answers I got was, ‘I want to work at my dad’s garage, I won’t need math.’ I replied, ‘Sure you will, you need to read gauges and know whether 450 psi is a bit much for the tires on a ford focus, whether 15 mpg is reasonable for a new Camry or a sign something’s wrong. You do well in this class, your dad will give you more responsibilities faster.’
Then the next student, same question. “I want to do make-up professionally, I don’t need math.” I said, “Sure you will. How will you know if a client cheats you, only pays for half your time? How will you know whether buying a case of eyeliner for $50 and then selling the individual tubes for $5 is making you a profit, unless you know there’s at least 10 tubes per case?”
It’s a fun game. I enjoy envisioning math uses and the kids appreciate the individual attention (and not having to do real work the first day).
The next student, same question: “I’m going to jail next year. My dad’s in jail, my grandfather died in jail, my uncle’s in jail, that’s where I’m going.” I said, “Well, c’mon, you’ll still need to count cigarettes or something. Plus, maybe you can find a job here that doesn’t land you in jail, that might be easier than doing time.” He replied, “No, it doesn’t matter, all I need to know is how to fight. I won’t ever need math.”
His unshakeable certainty that his life was already laid out and decided really shook me.
I don’t think I made a damn bit of difference to that kid, and I’m pretty confident he’s in jail now.
A man with a plan.
I had a seven-year-old kid look me straight in the eye and tell me that he didn’t need to go back to class or school for that matter because he was going to “sell coke as a job.”
Go on eBay.
Not a teacher (yet) but this happened in my tenth grade geography class.
We were learning about world trading and such. The teacher asks the class, “Now in the 16th and 15th centuries, what would you have had to do in order to get a custom pair of earrings?”
Various members of the class pitch in with “find a goldsmith” and “wait for the boats” and the process of finding the materials and how long the transport would take and such.
One girl in the back is looking increasingly more confused, so the teacher says, “Claudia, what’s wrong? Do you understand?” Claudia says, “I don’t get it. Why don’t they just go on eBay and find a pair they like on there?” The teacher obviously thinks she just hasn’t been listening. The teacher goes, “This is over 400 years ago,” and Claudia says, “So?” So, the teacher goes, “We didn’t have the internet then.” Claudia responds with, “Why does that matter? They could still go on eBay…”
Note: Comments have been edited for clarity.