Teachers Talk About Their Most Embarrassing Classroom Moments
Teachers are people too, and sometimes they make mistakes. We asked real-life teachers for their most embarrassing moments.
Illustrations by Alex Schubrt
I still remember the first time I realized my teachers were human. I was in fifth grade—prime prank-calling age—and my friends and I had found our teacher Mrs. A's number in the phone book. Mrs. A was a creative and passionate instructor, and we'd decided to reward her for that by harassing her at home. When she picked up, my friend said we were taking a brief survey, to which that poor, polite woman replied, "Sure." After a few innocent questions, my friend went in for the kill: "And last question, do you douche?"
In the silence that followed, my cheeks flushed with embarrassment for poor Mrs. A. "I think that's a very personal question," she finally responded, still apparently unaware of the fact that a bunch of underaged imbeciles were toying with her because we didn't feel like watching Grease again. Our giggles over the hilarity of senselessly humiliating our sweet teacher became so severe that we had to hang up, but I never was able to shake the guilt I felt about that incident, nor the realization that teachers are just human beings who have been forced by their jobs to interact with adolescents.
And, like everyone, they make mistakes from time to time, only when they screw up at work it's generally in front of a pack of children who haven't learned empathy quite yet. Here are some true stories from real teachers about some of their most embarrassing moments:
"I've spilled wine on essays and tried to pass it off as grape juice. Even ninth graders knew better. In a San Francisco parochial school, I tried to pass off a hickey as a scratch from a cat. Even fifth graders knew better."
—Chris, history teacher
"Once, my class smelled so bad, and I couldn't tell who did it. And it was the table farthest from the door. So I wrote 'defecation?' ( in cursive so the kids couldn't read or understand it) on a pink office note. I gave it to my first suspect and sent him to the office. The note came back with a 'no' from nurse Vicky. I gave the same note to three or four kids at that table until the turd was found and we finally got relief from the smell."
—Sherry, first-grade teacher
"I wrote the word can't on the board, but didn't close the top of the A all the way, so it said cunt and I didn't realize it. The whole class was laughing for a good ten minutes before I figured it out."
—Kathleen, English teacher
"Teaching a moderate/severe special education classroom has its fair share of surprises. Some kids don't understand the rules, and others just want to push against them. Once, while marching in line to a school assembly, a random eighth-grade girl accidentally brushed up against Billy, a student of mine, who took the opportunity to tell yell to everyone in the auditorium, 'Hey, this bitch just tried to fuck me in the ass!'
"In moments of crisis for a student with special needs, it's important to not make a big deal out of negative outbursts, because it reinforces negative attention-seeking behavior. So it was a real challenge for me to casually stroll to the front of the line and ask, 'What seems to be the problem, Billy?'
"'Uh, the problem is that this fucking bitch is all the way up my asshole.'
"Instead of admonishing him, I took a different route: 'Here's five bucks. How bout you forget about this bitch and head on over to the lunch line a little early today? No one will mess with your asshole in the cafeteria.'"
—Greg, special education teacher
"I was doing a game in my class and the prize was a Starburst for the winning team. A sassy black girl in the class said, 'Ugh, just a Starburst?' My response to her was meant to be something along the lines of, 'Well, I can't give you a full meal,' but instead, what came out was, 'What do you want me to give you, fried chicken?' I didn't even put it together until she was like, 'Umm, what, because I'm black?' The class—me and the girl included—laughed about it, but I just responded with something like, 'No! I just meant real food!'"
—Rob, English teacher
"I begin every Wednesday morning with a song. One day, the kids were a little low-energy, so I suggested we stand and sing on the table. I guess I was envisioning some kind of grand Dead Poet's Society moment, but what happened was some kids started to dance on the tables, while others ran up and down them. I was certain there would be a cracked skull incident. It was not safe."
—Stephen, third-grade teacher
"Each year I have my juniors write a persuasive speech about any topic of their choice. I want them to chose something they care deeply about, and I told them there were no parameters on what topic they could pick. This year, a student wrote a speech persuading the administrators that there needs to be a minimum age requirement for teachers in our school."
—Jillian, a 23-year-old English teacher
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