You know the feelings. The panic. The jaw-clenching terror. The gasping, nervous sweats.
They’re the feelings that somehow never leave us, even years later, as we think back on our teaching horror stories.
Today, in honor of All Hallows’ Eve, our bloggers dug through their own gut-churning experiences, and shared some stories they’ll never forget.
An Unannounced Visitor
It was September, and our school had a new principal. That latter fact is important to remember. That day, I was teaching social studies. We were reading about oxen in a yoke. My students were confused between yoke and yolk, so I drew pictures on the board. There were still questions about how a yoke would work, so I decided to act it out. Two students volunteered to come up front and get down on all fours. I stood behind them and explained how the yoke would be placed over their shoulders. Then I stood between them and was demonstrating how the driver would steer and whip the animals–when our new principal walked in. I froze, hand in mid-air. She froze. I think all of my students held their breath. Then she hurriedly said, “I’ll come back later,” quickly turned, and exited the room. The entire class erupted in laughter the moment the door closed. “You should have seen your face!” they cried. My cheeks were on fire, so I could only imagine. Great first impression! It was a story my students were still telling at the end of that year. – Beth Rogers
Journey to the Center of a Nasal Passage
The classroom was filled with the sound of rustling notebook pages and furiously scribbling pencils. I circulated through the desks, glowing about the beauty of an eighth-grade writing workshop. But before I had too much time to bask, I heard the faint sound of whimpering. One of my boys was hunched over his desk, tears spilling onto his paper. Oh no, I thought. What have I done? How did I not realize how much he’s struggling?
“What’s going on?” I whispered to him. He mumbled something that I couldn’t hear. “Hmm?” I asked. He looked up at me with big, tear-filled eyes. He leaned in closer so that no one would hear. “I have a dime stuck in my nose.”
I paused for a second, not sure sure that I’d heard him right. He pointed to his right nostril, tilted his head back, and there, sure enough, was a dime shining from deep within his little eighth grade nose. Postscript: Yes, he put it up there himself. Yes, that was a strange phone call home. And, yes, we got it out. – Megan Kortlandt
The Laws of Physics Broke Down
It was a dark and chilly November morning. The air outside was so brisk that the high school building itself made a conscious decision to put the boilers on blast. Which meant the air in the multi-purpose room, which serves as my makeshift classroom, was roughly 97 degrees. Of course. Because this was the day that I would present research strategies to six straight classes of over-heated, miserable, occasionally unruly high school sophomores. Having fired up the ceiling projector, I began my presentation to a particularly disengaged group. About four minutes into my instruction, the projector succumbed to the heat and shut itself off. After several minutes, I restarted the projector, only to have it die again. And again. And again. All told, the projector failed six times throughout the 55-minute period. It’s a mathematical feat that still haunts me to this day. – Bethany Bratney
Possessed by the Evil Spirit
It was my first year of teaching. I was young and excited and terrified. On Curriculum Night, I needed a little liquid courage, so I chugged three iced coffees. Three. I wasn’t really a coffee drinker, but they tasted good and I was nervous so . . . bottoms up. As the parents filed in and I started talking, the caffeine took over. It was one of those moments when you can see yourself speaking, like I was floating above my own body as an observer. Huh. Look at that girl with the crazy eyes, rapid firing information and scaring all those parents with her unhinged enthusiasm. I got through the night and I’ve since conquered my fear of Curriculum Night. But I’ll always cringe a little when I remember that first one. – Hattie Maguire
A Lesson amid Tragedy
My first year of teaching was 2001, the year of September 11. That was horror enough. But I was also hired to teach two sections of history. Having only a minor in anthropology, I knew I would be struggling to stay ahead of the 8th graders. I armed myself with some great books by Joy Hakim, and tried to stay on top of current events. So, when the teacher next door told me to turn on the news that fall September day, I did. My students and I sat and watched two burning buildings on the small screen in the corner, until the principal came on the PA to tell us all to turn off our TVs. Jeff, a student, raised his hand and asked, “Where is the Pentagon?” I had no idea, and so the horror of being unprepared as a teacher turned into a lesson on geography research. We spent the rest of the hour researching where the Pentagon was and what it was they did there. – Caroline Thompson
The Tornado and the Spiders
For anyone who knows me, it is no surprise that my classroom is filled with colorful anchor charts. I’m a crafty girl, to say the least. So when I began my teaching journey, as a kindergarten teacher, I was more than ecstatic. October brought, among other things, spider headbands hanging in the hall outside the classroom, greeting inhabitants as they passed. One of the regular inhabitants of our hall was the night custodian, Mr. Todd. He would gingerly collect the fallen spiders as he made his rounds, and inform me the following day of the casualties. I would collect the spiders from him and rehang them. Night after night. Morning after morning. Until the evening of October 24th.
An unexpected autumn tornado touched down upon the small-town elementary school. The hall that once embraced students’ work and smiles and laughter was reduced to half-erected walls and piles of cement blocks. And among it all, stood a wall: a display of spider headbands. Not one had fallen. – Tina Luchow