I’ll be honest with you, dear Pandas—I’m very nostalgic for my school days. I miss the good old days when the world seemed to be somehow more mysterious and you were always brimming with potential. It’s also a secret ambition of mine to become a teacher or professor someday in the far, far future. So when I spot an educator sharing their experience about their job, I’m all ears (or, well, eyes because I do a lot of reading).
Imgur user Kaiserkevin, a teacher and counselor who has a whopping 20 years of experience, shared a host of riveting school stories. It’s a rollercoaster of a ride and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did! Check out Kevin’s coolest and most memorable stories below and don’t forget to upvote the ones that you found particularly interesting. Oh, and if there are any educators among you, Pandas, we’d love to hear some stories from your perspective as well.
I had a chat with Kevin about the main challenges that teachers now face, how the Covid-19 pandemic has shifted everything, how music can be a powerful tool in an educator's arsenal, and just how vital empathy is when working as a teacher. You'll find his interview with Fashion Life below, so be sure to have a read.
Image credits: kaiserkevin
"Know I am a few years late for when these peaked, but figured I would write out some memorable events for my own sake at least, as my memory has been failing. Hope y'all find something of value."
Killing time before a field trip for middle schoolers, and 2 kids who I never saw interact before created a memorable event. Boy with autism, usually on computer asks to play a game of charades with cheerleader. Cheerleader complies, and says 'give me a minute to think of something.' Boy says 'oooh, oooh, I know what you are! You're a pretty girl!' Girl blushes, and after composing herself continues the game.
Incident that most eroded my faith in educational institutions happened as a result of an administrator. Guy was one of 3 superintendents of elementary school district. Got caught molesting his daughter on school grounds. Found out about it from his son in the most heartbreaking conversation of my life. School had done it's best to make sure parents were unaware of the event. This cover-up was attempted by the school principal, as well as the NPO I was working for. Parents found out eventually, and enough parents transferred students so a teacher had to be downsized the following year. Messed up situation, but in all aspects admin was primarily focused on securing funding, not on the safety of their students.
Twins, especially boy/girl fraternal twins were almost always the best behaved in terms of interacting with other students. Their situation leads them to understand the challenges and concerns their gender does not. As such, they are generally more socially aware and are excellent at conflict resolution and overall empathy.
One year I had to re-evaluate my prejudices when I learned my favorite family of kids was undocumented. 3 kids who grew up in fairly hostile environment, but made it through the worst to get a better life here. These students also demonstrate better social awareness and compassion for those in difficult situations. Can't say the same for all kids born and raised here.
As a big fan of Dungeons and Dragons myself, I was sad to learn that Kevin's plans for a DnD campaign with his students didn't come to fruition. Kevin told me that those particular students didn't get a chance to play DnD in middle school. However, "Once they went to high school, the students created and joined several DnD themed groups," Kevin told Fashion Life that there was a happy ending to that particular story.
Kevin noted that the shift from live to online teaching during the Covid lockdowns has been "very taxing" for various educators. "The older teachers who are not technologically literate simply couldn't keep up," he pointed out the reality that some teachers struggled and were left behind by the changes.
"Although I can use tech well, building and maintaining open lines of communication with students is surprisingly difficult," Kevin shared with Fashion Life. "Students are less comfortable writing an e-mail for help than asking in person. Covid will dramatically change how we teach, which will include more online options moving forward."
On rainy days we have to improvise a game that is both educational, engaging, and withing budget. Not an easy task. We played 'country ball,' a game where students would throw a blow-up globe with all the countries listed on it. Students needed to 1) catch the ball, and 2)name a country not named earlier before 3)throwing it to another student. Students kept getting out as they either missed a catch, or named a country someone else had. This particular game was very intense, and students were desperately finding countries no-one had named before to stay in. This 3rd grade girl was one of 3 still in. She caught the ball, and found a country name she hadn't heard anyone say yet. With the most enthusiastic and innocent voice of a student who knew she was steps away from winning, she yelled out 'Niger!'
Except she didn't say 'Niger.' The class fell silent, some students gasped, and my co-worker excused himself. Poor kid became so nervous. Only thing I thought to say was 'that's... not.. how it's pronounced,' before telling her she was out. Had a private talk with her about what that word meant, and let parents know situation. Otherwise student wasn't disciplined. Found co-worker few minutes after in the next room recomposing himself from laughing. Talked about this incident for years.
One of my first posts here was explaining an incident in which middle-school students debated the 'trolley problem.' I would shift from a serious to trivial topic each week. Most memorable debates were the trolley one, best junk food, and a button pressing one.
Students successfully argued that pizza was the best junk food, out of a fairly large group including burgers, ice cream, candy, soda, donuts and chicken tenders. Pizza was settled upon as it could 1) be a full meal and 2) make good leftovers.
The button pressing one was quite intense. The choice was a single button, you push it and you can read everyone's mind. The downside is that everyone can read your mind. Got into really good debate regarding privacy, individual rights, and if pressing the button would turn humanity into a hive-mind (like the Zerg!)
I started a DnD group for middle-schoolers, primarily based off Imgur community getting me involved. Students rolled their characters, I spent a week creating a map of a world for students to explore, along with political intrigue and various paths the could take going forward. One kid's parent was Catholic. Group was not allowed to meet during after-school hour before we even started the campaign. Unforgivable.
I have had to write my share of CPS reports over the years. Rather not go into too much detail, but the worst actions I perpetrated against children I know of come from parents.
Kevin told me that music can be a wonderful tool to help students focus and get in the right mood for learning. "Music is a highly undervalued tool. Plan to attempt some data collection on whether music can help certain students during specific tasks. Playing remixes of the same song during the entirety of a week's lesson, then allowing students to listen to that soundtrack during test-taking has potential."
"New educators need empathy and emotional intelligence over topic mastery. I truly believe the best teachers are the ones who can empathize best with their students, as they can understand how a student made a mistake, and how to fix it. Students are extremely stressed, and making the work more difficult does not equal a better education. Collaborate to make reasonable goals," Kevin said that teachers should aim to relate to their students as best they can.
Kevin’s post on Imgur was wildly successful. In less than a day, at the time of writing, it had 104k views and over 2.8k upvotes. With a bunch of stories this good, I expect these numbers to keep on rising. I’d also absolutely love to get another update from the Imgurian about his other experiences within the school system.
This event happened early in my career, and I have come to regret how I handled it. This kid would cry at the slightest contact of the ball. I don't think it was the ball hitting that got to her, but rather the idea someone would willingly hurt her. My response was to take her aside, and with the ball held place it on her shoulder. I asked if it hurt. 'No.' Next I lifted it and told her I would drop it on her shoulder. Di so, and she seemed to have no reaction. Lastly, I picked the ball back up and told her I would throw it underhand to her, and she should try to catch it. Did o, and it just kinda rolled down her body. She went back to play, and didn't cry anymore. She did seem fairly violent in the eyes when she threw the ball from then on. At the time I convinced myself I was 'toughening her up' for a world that crushes the weak. Come to think now that I robbed the world of a person who would have helped create a more merciful and less cruel world.
For future reference, this reaction is a sign of abuse at home and should be reported to CPS. CPS reports aren't judge jury, executioner deal. Writing one means, if you're lucky an agent will stop by the kid's house and take note of the situation. Even then, rarely is action taken, but can sometimes spook abusers into treating their kids better.
All of these are groups of anecdotal evidence, but this particular one is just one guy. Had a student get killed in a drive-by shooting a block from the middle-school. Cops were frantically trying to contact the school cop, who was the closest to the scene. Cop never answered calls, he was having an affair down the road.
This info came to light due to school gossip, and was later confirmed by local sheriffs who would train us for school-shooting protocols. They mentioned that often the police send their most problematic to the schools, as they feel they can't cause as much trouble there. Haven't looked at any school cops same since.
One of my earliest events I had to write paperwork for. This kid had nosebleeds regularly, and was generally unphased by the sight of blood on her face. We were on the playground when this nosebleed happened. As I did before I sent her with a friend to the front-desk in the cafeteria to get some paper towels and use the restroom to clean up. Unlike usual she did not return with her friend. Brought the entire groups back to the cafeteria to the sight of ambulance crew and a fairly 'phased' girl who was quite shaken by the presence of emergency crew. I had a conversation with her, and she explained she had tears of blood. I responded, 'That's awesome!' Probably not the most appropriate response, but she laughed and calmed down a bit after I asked if she felt discomfort. Turns out her sinus cavity was connected to her tear-ducts, an incredibly rare occurrence from what I understood.
Being a teacher really isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s an incredibly tough job, though I’d argue that the rewards—helping guide your students into becoming the best they can be—more than make up for the sweat and tears.
One of the biggest challenges that any educator will face will be organizing and going on a school trip. It might sound simple enough on paper, but when you factor in how many kids you need to look after while also following a strict schedule that’s also supposed to be teaching them something new… things can start to unravel. Fast.
Earlier, I spoke to British primary school teachers Tom Rose and Jack Parnnett. They told Fashion Life that school trips are a huge challenge, especially for new teachers. Constantly having to transition from one location to the next can cause a lot of issues.
Some of the best programs I ran did so off grants. Those grants had to show that students were learning from the program. To do so, this marine-bio program had us administer test at the start and end of the program. Student at the start, with no-info should do poorly. By the end they should do well after going through the program. This program never changed its test, and the same kids would apply to it years in a row. To keep the funding, I explained the situation to the kids, and told them to do poorly on the start of the year test. Then, at end of year I would tell the students to try their best. The reason kids wanted to be in this program, among other reasons was the promise of a field-trip to our local islands that also got them out of school. We kept funding for 5 years, was a great program. I regret nothing.
Have some interviews coming up and wanted to put this scenario in words. If a student asks' when will I use this in the future' I may or may not have a good example of how what I am teaching can be a translatable skill in the workforce. Many times I don't and I don't think it should matter. As democratic citizens who elect representatives we are obligated to have broad understanding of our world so that we ideally elect the best people to make the best choices regarding all topics.
If a student gets stuck on a videogame, he won't complain 'when will I use this in real life?' He usual goes right back at it, regardless of applicability. The drive is due to the student knowing since its a videogame, there is a path to success available. As humans, if we are presented with a new skill we have an inherent drive to at least try to master it. Resolving this conflict is not about application, but probability of success. If the student sees no path to success, he will cease to try. Show him a path, and how others have reached the goal and he will proceed. I can't always make students interested, but I can make a path to success available for all.
Speaking of the worst...
When I worked afterschool as a counselor, talking with students allowed us to see a bleak view. Students primarily felt anxiety, fear, and hopelessness. A lot of this revolved around the environments their teachers cultivated. Many students felt that if they did not understand a lesson, asking the teacher would result in scolding. Even if the teacher attempted to help, the student would shut down after hearing 'Why weren't you paying attention.' or something similar. This were the mediocre teachers. The worst would revel in their power i.e. 'There is nothing you can do at this point to pass this class.' Teachers who say this are lying, it is entirely within their power to accept late work or make accommodations for struggling students.
As a teacher, most of the time I interact with teachers I hear a constant stream of complaints. I understand this is a coping mechanism for stressful environments, but being surrounded by people who hate their jobs and their lives really kills me. I try to focus on providing the best learning experience for my students. I don't have time to hear you complain how the computer program doesn't automatically give detentions to late students anymore so you have to do it manually now.
"Many teachers fear PE for the same basic reason, which is: not having a safe confined space to teach (as they are used to when they are in a classroom). The extra pressure of trying to impress the parent/carer helpers is another thing that gets in the way of many teachers doing their job too, which is again much more obvious with less experienced teachers," teachers Tom and Jack told me.
Spend too much time with the 'fuck your feelings' crowd and you might end up with collateral damage. Been guilty of this myself, but in person I am trying to be more emotionally intelligent and aware.
Ran into a student I did not get along with, who was accompanied by some of his friends who also knew me. Old job had recently been killed due to district purposefully screwing over my NPO's grant in an attempt to secure the funds themselves. Anyway, conversation starts out pretty normal, and he asks how my job is. His friends go 'oooooh' and I think nothing of it, explain that job is gone and I am working to become a teacher. To mirror his concern I ask how his cousin is doing. His cousin was sent to a hospital due to very rare disease he nearly died from, but had stabilized and recovered last time I checked. His whole group drops silent. He explains he is doing well now, and I tell him have a nice day and tell his family hi.
Realize now that he probably thought me asking about his cousin was retaliatory for asking about my job. He didn't have good memories of me prior, and I don't think he ever will. Still feel bad and although I am generally a callous asshole, I will try my damnedest to be more sensitive going forward.
I really try not to hold this aspect against them, but only children have consistently had the worst social skills. This is likely due to being the center of attention at home, and not being able to in groups. It's not all only children, and many times their social ineptitude is harmless, but the ones that come from entitled parents create the worst behaved kids. One of these kids parents was the elementary school's volunteer football coach. Her kid was always quarter-back when he was in, and when things didn't go well on the field he would blame teammates. It was like hearing XBOX game IRL. Eventually the league was mercifully disbanded, and that was the last we saw of this particular parent.
"Beyond the transitions and dealing with the other adult help, you then have to deal with the many unexpected things that crop up along the way, such as the transport issues, sudden changes of weather, stumbling across a bee's nest (that was Tom in Bushy Park) amongst many other potentials," the duo noted that a lot of surprises can pop up and derail the trip. However, the antidote to this is preparation and repetition. Just like with many things in life.
Growing older sucks, had very idealistic goals as a younger person, and demanded ideologically purity when striving for those ends. Pragmatism is much better mindset that allows for growth and adaptation. 'Did this work?' If no, try an alternative. If yes, improve upon current method. Do not assume all paths to success for each student will look the same. Some require encouragement, some sternness. Some students used notes, calculators, or extra time to finish a test. I let my students, not sure why so many fellow teachers think not giving tools to success makes a better education.