Educating America's youth can be a challenge. Shrinking budgets, expanding class sizes, and lower salaries are the norm. But those two pieces of the puzzle are solvable. What is hard is figuring out how to deal with REALLY bad children and teens. Violent teens, angry teens, disrespectful kids. The worst part is that it's often a completely thankless job.
Consider these stories, curated from Reddit and highlighting some of the worst of the worst that teachers have to deal with in today's schools. It will shock and anger you and it should. They deserve better. All posts have been edited for clarity.
"This is a story from my mother, who is a middle school art teacher in a small Southern Baptist town in North Carolina.
One day, the art room was given new tables. It is a tradition that the tables in the art room are always covered with artwork by the students (usually just finger painting and stuff).
So my mom asks the students what they would like to paint on the tables. One girl says she wants to paint a big cross on her group's table with maybe a piece of scripture from the bible.
After thinking it over, my mother says that because of the spirit of separation of church and state, she wouldn't be comfortable with allowing a big cross to be painted on a table (state property, in a state institution) unless they painted symbols from many faiths from multiple cultures from around the world, as that would be more educational and would not support or endorse a specific religion over others.
This girl goes home and tells her parents that my mother is attacking Christianity in the classroom. Her parents go to the county board of education and demand that she be fired for not 'following in the good christian morals of our fine county.'
At another part of the school year, during which my mother had her new boyfriend assisting her, one of the boys asks her, 'do you and Joe live together?' Without thinking, mom answers 'yes.' Without missing a beat, the child responds 'you are living in sin' and continues with something along the line 'God will smite you down.'
My mother drops it, but the kid goes home and tells his parents. His parents go to the board of education and tell them the same thing as the girl's parents.
The county board of education fired her. It is not until my mother walks in to a board meeting with a lawyer in tow that they hire her back. Never in my life have I wanted so much to punch a group of people in the face."
"I used to substitute for my father when I was in college. He taught 7th and 8th grade history in a horrible district (which I had gone through).
First day subbing for my dad, and I have his lesson plan. The first couple periods go well, lunch duty was fine, time for last period. As soon as the class comes in, one kid raises his hand and asks me, 'Are you going to try to teach the class, 'cause I don't give a crap.'
I responded, 'Well, Mr. his name, I can tell you don't, according to the grade book I've been provided. It's OK though; at least you know that you will still be in 8th grade at this point next year while everyone sitting around you will be in high school making fun of you because, seriously, who can't pass 8th grade history?'
The class erupted in laughter, the kid got all quiet and pouted for the rest of the day."
"A kid assumes a karate stance and says 'If I had a katana, I would cut you into a million pieces. I will kill you.'
Said by a grade five student to a male teacher in front of me. He was scared to say the least.
The same kid took a yard stick to a firefighter's head after a projector screen fell on a girl's head and the ambulance was called. Kid's explanation: 'I know medics assault girls and I was protecting her.' Firefighter's response: 'I'm a firefighter!'
Ah the joys of teaching in Hong Kong.
The funniest thing a parent has ever said to me:
The first year I was in Hong Kong, I taught at a ritzy kindergarten ($1,200 per month for half-day classes), and I had an English student in my class.
When his father came to parents' day, I introduced myself and said something along the lines of, 'It's nice to meet you, Mr. Howard.' He instantly scolded me, barking, 'It's Lord Howard, and you shall address me as that.'
I thought he was joking, so I laughed. He got EXTREMELY upset, and demanded an apology. I laughed again, still thinking he was trying to wind me up. He went to the principal and she asked me to apologize. At this time, there was a waiting list of about 40 kids for my class. There was no way I was gonna address this schmuck as 'lord.' I told the principal that if the guy didn't drop it, she could let him go, or let me go. She moved his kid to another class. Every time I saw that guy, I greeted him cheerfully with, 'Hello Mr. Howard, beautiful day isn't it?'"
"I was a substitute teacher on the side for a couple years.
One day, I was covering an 8th-grade music class in southeast South Carolina. All the kids had to do was watch a movie. Some bully punk thought it would be funny to slap a special needs kid in the back of his neck just to mess with him. This kid had a 40+ year old lady who went with him everywhere as his special needs assistant. She just looked at me and didn't do anything.
The kid immediately started to cry. I asked the lady what happens and she said, 'he hit him,' kind of nonchalantly.
I was a sub, remember, so I made $65 per DAY, so I wasn't about to put up with any crap from some punk who reminded me of many a punk I had to deal with back when I was in school.
I laid into this kid in front of everyone. 'You think you're cool, big shot? You think you impress any of these people when you smack a defenseless kid like that? Well hey, I'm a defenseless kid, why don't you walk down here and smack me? Huh? Come on down! COME ON DOWN!'
To which, he just sat there frozen, all the kids he was trying to impress now staring at him with hands covering their smirks. He says, 'Man, I din't smack him!'
So I roar back at him and the kid flinches from across the room (great feeling), 'GET YOUR BUTT DOWN HERE, NOW! We're going to visit the police officer stationed at the front door.'
I put a sweet, helpful girl 'in-charge' of the class and walked that little punk down to the office and told the principal and the police officer that he had assaulted a special needs student, and the cop's eyes get really angry, really fast. The principal is ticked, too -- they don't like subs having to come to them with problems because it makes them look like they can't control their kids (which, they cannot).
I hand the kid over to them, the cop is already pulling out his notepad/ticket book, the principal is red, and the kid is white with fear.
I walked out of there feeling like a champion, as if I had reclaimed/avenged some part of my youth. I really hate bullies."
"I had a teacher for my writing class last year in college, and she told us these crazy stories at a mentally unstable children school she taught at. I'm talking kids who have killed/attempted, substances abusers, etc...
One rule was the students weren't ever allowed to have ANYTHING sharp on them. No pencil sharpeners. When biology class came around for dissections, there were very limited probes, scissors and pins. They were all supervised very carefully as well.
The most important rule all of the teachers understood was to NEVER TURN YOUR BACK TO THE KIDS. You wanted to write on the board? You do it without looking. Read? You had someone else do it, and you kept your guard up at ALL times.
One day in their biology class, all of the kids managed to hide probes and pins from the teachers, and they had another class shortly afterwards, with a newer teacher. The kids all thought it was funny to 'play a prank on her.' Well this teacher forgot about this 'golden rule' and turn around to face the board and write something. She turned around to see all of the students holding extremely sharp probes around her in a semi-circle, and had her trapped against the blackboard. Two kids held her down against the board, while the rest of the kids proceeded to throw the probes like darts to see, 'who can get the closest without hitting her.'
She didn't work there very long.
One kid overdosed in the middle of class and died right there, and my teacher had to literally tell all of the other kids that he was sleeping while she had to pick up his dead body and bring it to the guards stationed nearby 'to get him some place better to sleep' so all of the other kids wouldn't freak out and go on a killing rampage.
Verbal abuse, violent threats and death threats were all supposed to be taken extremely literal. If they said that they were going to kill you and your unborn baby, you better believe that they meant every word and they will do it.
She went to a public school (a regular high school, not a messed up one) and all of the 'gangsters' there thought they were tough guys. They didn't even begin to know the stuff she has been through.
Dealing with those kids was like a vacation for her."
"I teach high school science.
Worst question: 'Are you on your period?' I'm male.
Worst action: One of my students jumped into a fight in the hallway from inside my classroom. She had some problems, but we had a great rapport and I didn't want her getting into the fight. She and her sisters were jumping this defenseless, smaller girl, and so some other teachers and I tried to break it up. I was holding her back and telling her to stop, but she just scratched and clawed at me to get at this other girl. I got pretty messed up, considering she was my height and outweighed me, and I was afraid to use too much force. This was the worst action because of how far she had come and then went psycho just to jump a girl and ended up expelled.
I get called all sorts of names and get told to do all sorts of things, most of them fairly innocuous. I have good comebacks for most of them that tend to keep the students out of trouble by letting all of us laugh. But really, the worst thing a student can ever say is that they think you're a bad teacher. It's always a reflection of something else going on with the kid, but it never fails to hurt at least a little bit.
Here's my weirdest situation: A student, high on some hallucinogen mixed with mental disorders, freaks out, starts running all over the school while I chase him in one of the most bizarre chases (it was during my plan period, nobody was around to help, and he kept running and stopping), then climbs to the top of a stairwell, starts chanting about how God will forgive him, and security and I have to talk him down. Once we manage to get him into an office, we lock him in a storeroom, then the on-campus cops start talking to him. He's making no sense at this point, so we call the ambulance. As the cops are escorting him down to the ambulance, he gets out of their grasp, runs STRAIGHT THROUGH a glass door and runs around the entire school. He's eventually tackled by the cops, and put into the psych wing of the local hospital. Later jumps out of the 6th floor window of the hospital (somehow), onto the 2nd floor overhang, then onto the street and ran down the street about a mile before he was found again. He never came back to my school."
"My wife, a high school teacher (not in the inner city) has experienced some crazy stuff in her eight years as a public high school teacher. Bear in mind, her administration respects her because, of all teachers in the county (five high schools), she has one of the best records for maintaining student discipline.
She is called terrible names by a student, to her face, AT LEAST once a week (students are usually assigned detention for this).
She had a desk thrown at her (the student was put into in-school suspension for two days).
While she was assistant coach for cross-country, a senior boy showed her - and several other girls on the team - his junk. She reported it, but he was not disciplined.
A student threatened to punch her in the stomach and kill her baby (student was suspended for two days).
A female student said she's get a razor and slice her face off (An administrator said she was getting 'a reputation as a whiner' when she reported this one).
She's actually quit sharing all the details over this kind of thing with me because I was preparing to sue her employer. The truth is that most school districts, since the late 1990s, I guess, have quit caring about what the teachers endure. Conditions are really that bad in public schools that, by the time they get to high school, all you can do is put out the fires and wait for the next bomb to drop."
"When I was in 8th grade, I said to the recently-married hockey coach in the locker room, 'Hey, Mr. X, do you have any naked pictures of your wife or would you like to buy some.' He jacked me up against the lockers, looked me in the eye and said, 'Don't make me tell jokes about your mother.' That was the worst thing I ever did.
But before we think problems are modern day, I knew a sweet old man who was a teacher in Brooklyn. As he wrote on the chalkboard, he would watch the reflections in his glasses to see what was happening behind him. One day, he wasn't paying attention and a kid snuck up behind him and beat the crap out of him. He was hospitalized and retired with disability pay.
That was 1968.
Teachers often have a crappy job. Thanks to them for putting up with us."
"I am not teaching anymore, however, when I was a teacher at one of the worst schools around, three of the students pulled out knives in class and threatened to stab me, holding the knives to my stomach.
I remained calm, sat down and also asked them to settle down. The other students were either too scared to do anything or took the opportunity to cause mayhem and threw things out of the classroom.
After the lesson, the teacher in the neighboring room came into mine and started shouting at me for not controlling the kids and disrupting his class - I was too shocked to even respond to why that was. About 20 minutes later I decided that it wasn't for me and I never went back to the classroom, instead I went to a senior teacher and cried my eyes out.
A student also filmed it on his mobile so if you are lucky you can find it on YouTube maybe. Not that I wish to look and recall it.
Thinking about it again really makes me feel like crap and I'm pretty sure it has had an effect on my future life/perception of things.
If I could go back in time, I'd still go for teaching, I would just being a lot more picky about where I go."
"I am a substitute teacher, I've got a lot of stories
A high school student threw a book at my face, hitting me square on the nose. I was asked by the principle if I would like to press charges but I decided not to.
A non-verbal special ed high school student peed himself and then chased me around the classroom trying to get my non-soiled sweater to wear for himself. When he failed in this task, still trailing puddles of pee all over the classroom, he proceeded to throw chairs randomly about classroom. Then came the spitting. Eventually a big dude (I am not sure of his position) had to tackle him and pull him screaming out of the classroom.
One middle school was so bad that the best way I can describe it is to say that the halls were like the movie Braveheart every break time.
After lunch as I was getting ready for my next class, I heard the roar of battle, and when I checked outside my door there were two big kids fighting and one small middle-aged woman trying to break it up, with mixed results. One of the kids had kind of wrestled her down and was on top of her on the floor. Being a wrestler myself, I grabbed the kid from behind and picked him up out of the action. As I restrained him from behind (with double arm control), the bell rang. I told the other teacher my class was starting, and asked what I should I do with the kid. She said he had my class this hour. So I carried the kid backward into my classroom, turned around 180 degrees, let him go, and said 'Welcome to History Class!'"
"Not a teacher, but...
I had a math class my freshman year that I almost never attended, and did no work for. When I did attend though, class was typically disrupted by one specific kid, who was a 'gangsta' senior. The teacher was a 5' Asian woman.
One day he was in the middle of his usual anti-Asian taunts toward her, and she stood up to him. She told him to leave her class, go to the office, and not to return. He became enraged. Standing at the front of the class he got in her face (towering over her) and screaming mindless obscenities. She was in tears. The whole class watched in dead silence. All of a sudden he cocked his fist back, and something broke in my brain. I jumped out of my desk chair and charged him. I shoved him, and he tripped over his extremely low baggy pants, and fell backwards. He struggled against the pants into a semi-standing position and I delivered one of my best right hooks ever. It was a lights out punch.
Campus security took him away semi-conscious, and he was expelled. I got off completely. I also passed the class with a D+ despite attending less than half of the classes, and doing no work.
His friends kicked the absolute crap out of me later, but I managed to keep a smile on my face while laughing for most of the beating."
"I still feel bad about this to this day, and I wasn't even one of the people majorly involved:
One year in high school, my school hired a new French teacher, a quiet and friendly man, but he was relatively new to teaching, and quite easily became out of his depth when kids decided to be jerks. This is no fault of his, and I've met him since and he's hardened up (doesn't take crap from kids anymore), but anyways, my story:
I'm in Canada, and therefore high school French was mandatory and the classes quickly became divided by the school into problem classes (students that weren't doing particularly well in French, or were troublemakers), normal classes, and advanced classes. I was put in the, 'problem class,' as I hadn't been doing particularly well in French thus far (I was taking Japanese at the same time, and put more effort into that, as it was much more interesting to me).
In what was perhaps (most definitely) a poor decision, the school assigned the new teacher to the problem class, and the troublemaker portion of the class (2/3 of it) proceeded to be the most incredibly persistent jerks the world has known. They would straight up talk back to him or ignore him in class, get into food fights in a class where food wasn't allowed, walk around, and because the teacher wasn't used to uncooperative kids, they walked all over him.
I'd say the worst moment was when one of the kids in my class, who was part of a group who would regularly ask to go to the bathroom to skip class, was denied going to the bathroom, as the teacher knew the kid was messing with him. The kid proceeds to, when the teacher isn't looking, pour a bottle of water down his own pants, and yell at the teacher for not letting him go to the bathroom.
In hindsight, I really wish that I could have done something for the teacher, but at the time my friends and I composed such a small portion of the class that we couldn't really do anything. I did my best to be cooperative, and the teacher was really a stand up guy, I'd say he's been one of the best French teachers that I've had, but unfortunately the stress was too much, and he quit our school, but kept teaching."