Everybody can't know everything, but there are certain things we expect everyone to know. Alas, our expectations aren't always met. Here, 24 frustrated teachers share the saddest and most obvious thing they've ever had to explain to a student.
Had to explain to my high school kids that there are Black people in England and they are in fact, not called African Americans.
During the last year of high school, I tutored a group of 6-9 year olds in after school hours to get them up to the level of their classmates.
One of them was a lovely little girl who called all colors "blue", and absolutely refused to believe that colors all had different names.
I met her parents once at a parent-teacher interview, and gently brought up that their daughter would do really well if she had some home help with color recognition. Her mother laughed and said "Oh, that! It's too hard to expect someone to just remember every color, so that's the way we do it at home!"
Awesome. Great job, guys.
When I was a camp counsellor I had a girl (she was about 13) who absolutely insisted that raccoons were made-up animals. Like unicorns, or something.
The one fact that my high school students were most baffled by was that the ABC song and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" have the same tune. I had to orchestrate a sing-along in the middle of Latin class to convince them to accept it and move on.
"You absolutely have to use capital letters at the beginnings of sentences and proper nouns."
I teach college.
It's midterm, you've failed three tests. No. You can't get an A in the course.
I have to tell students this every semester.
Learning about astronomy, there was a girl in my class who asked : "Earth, that's the one we live on, right?" Very serious.
I teach a high school science class. Had a class debate on space travel and got some of the AP science kids to come judge. After presenting argument, the "judges" go to ask questions. Some kid from the AP Physics class starts off his question with, "Since humans have been around for 400 billion years, why. . ."
I had to interrupt him immediately and ask for confirmation. Did he really mean 400 billion years? Yes. Yes he did.
I had to walk out of the room.
For those who don't know offhand, the universe is only about 13.5 billion years old. Our planet is about 4.5 billion years old. Modern humans have been around for about 200,000 years.
I was sitting in my office chatting with a few students when one of the members of the group noticed my poster of U.S. Presidents. I asked her to name those that had died in office. She was mystified. I suggested JFK. She was horrified, "They killed him in his office?!"
Every day for a week before we had standardized tests, I would have to remind my students to learn their address so that they could fill out the forms. Every single year I had at least one student show up with no idea what to put down for their address on the bubble sheet. Sometimes I could pull up their information in our database and get it for them, but it wasn't always there. I taught 15-year-olds in ninth grade.
When I was in year 10 one of the girls in my science class asked if many people died in the big bang. Year 10. I don't think anyone who was in that class has forgotten that moment.
A girl in my class said she refused to eat marshmallows because they're made of poop. She had the idea that marshmallow came from old poop that has turned white. This was a 13-yr-old girl, and we had to look it up before she would believe it...and I'm pretty sure she still wasn't sure.
These are some things I have had to tell my college students in the past year:
Buddhism and Islam are two separate religions. Also Hinduism is not an extinct religion.
Divine is not spelled "devine". Yeah this one comes up a lot.
What a thesis statement is
Napoleon was not a Roman general
Lying down on the ground and texting your girlfriend while in the middle of an exhibit at a major public museum is frowned upon by the guards. And also by me... but I was more... perplexed.
When asked this question: "Should I be writing down this history stuff?" I simply answered "Yes. Yes you should." I teach history.
Elementary teacher here. Day one of first grade, I assigned some spelling homework. Kids fresh out of kindergarten don't know what homework is. The twinkle left their innocent little eyes as I explained it.
Not every day is a win when teaching. Even in first grade.
I'm getting my master's degree in Special Education. I want to do this because I am severely dyslexic. When I was diagnosed in 3rd grade, I was told I might never be able to read. I learned to read (finally) in 4th-5th grade. I got my BA in English, so you could say I made up for it.
I want to help kids in high school with learning disabilities. For now I'm a sub. I subbed a class once, about a year back. It was considered a "low functioning" class. I read the science chapter to them, like I was instructed. The entire time I had an 18-year-old kid with his headphone in, ignoring me and giving me attitude. Finally, I informed him that his lack of participation was going to go into my notes for his teacher. He got PISSED. He told me "I already know all this!!" I challenged him. "Prove it." I said. It was time to go over the end-of-chapter questions, and I wanted to show him how much not paying attention can cost you.
He answered EVERY. QUESTION. CORRECTLY. And in explicit detail, might I add. I was floored. I was a new sub at the time. I would NEVER do this now, but after I assigned individual work, I came up to him in private and said "Why are you here?! This is a SPED class. WHY?!"
He simply said, "I can't read." It took me a while to believe him, but really, He could not read. That day he asked me for a ride home, and even though I was not supposed to, I agreed. His home turned out to be a homeless shelter. He had been struggling for YEARS under the care of his grandmother with alzheimer's. His parents were gone. Drug addicts. His grandma was now too far gone to live with. I tutored him for free for several months after this. Smartest kid I ever met. He was reading at a 5th grade level when I had to leave him. I got him a new, fantastic tutor before I left.
So to answer your question, the saddest, most obvious thing I ever had to tell a student? "You're smart Matthew. You're the smartest kid I know. You know what? You're going to be amazing." He was convinced he was an idiot. I'm convinced he's amazing.
And he is. Mark my words.
Plagiarism. I wouldn't have even thought to look for it - after all, these were high school seniors I was dealing with - except that one girl who'd copied from Wikipedia had left the formatting in, and the cross-page hyperlinks were still bright blue.
One day in 6th grade we were going over the periodic table. My teacher had a giant table hung up on the wall and she started pointing out a few easy ones like gold and iron. One of my classmates, completely serious, said, "Where's Redstone (as in Minecraft Redstone) on the periodic table? "
I teach swim lessons. This girl could swim pretty well. We learn breathing to our side. Her face is in the water and I say "breathe." This girl took a breath underwater! I had to explain when I say "breathe" I mean above the water.
I had a girl in my grade 10 history class, and she was 20 years old. She wrote me a short essay arguing that Quebec shouldn't separate from Canada. Her main argument was that if it did indeed separate, then people would have to take a boat to get there because of all the water that would be in the way. I wish I was making this up.
There's a lab we do involving elements and their properties in freshmen science. Students go around to different stations, each with has its own unique element.
They test/observe the elements for different properties (luster, magnetism, electrical conductivity, stuff like that). Two years ago I had a class where after finishing at the first station, I told them all to "rotate stations clockwise," and I had a student seriously ask me "which way is clockwise?" I was both dumbfounded and saddened by that, but I guess if you think about it a lot of students don't wear watches anymore...
Sooo...how is a country different from a continent?' He was 19 and a father of two.
That when you pee you are supposed to aim for the toilet, not the floor, the garbage can, and for goodness sake please stop peeing your pants! You are in second grade! Also your poop is to go inside the toilet, not on the wall and how in the hell did you think to fling it on the ceiling!? Lastly, when you shit yourself in the second grade and act like nothing happened, everyone knows...everyone!
My sister is always reminding her 6th grade students that deodorant is a useful tool to help you not smell bad. She often had to open the classroom's windows because the boys would smell so bad.
I teach English in a languages school. One day, after class, I was talking to a student about music, and showed him some rap songs, which are very fast and hard to sing... He then said 'they sound like squirrels speaking', I laughed and remembered about a vine video in which a squirrel speaks very fast saying something like "thank you for these delicious walnuts you're a very nice person I promise to come back tomorrow... Etc", and showed him that video... And to my surprise he asked me if "squirrels actually speak that fast", I thought he was joking but he then said that "in the movie Alvin and the chipmunks they also speak very fast, do they actually speak like that?"
You should've seen his face and reaction when I told him that animals don't speak, and it's just a dubbed audio. He couldn't believe that. And I honestly couldn't believe myself what I had just witnessed this guy do... He's 22 years old.