If you're going into the teaching profession you know you're going to need patience and lots of it. Kids will act out and rebel in the weirdest ways, often to get attention or to push the boundaries. But every once in a while you get a kid who lashes out or cheats just for the fun of it and then what do you do?
Teachers and professors of Reddit were asked: "How did you secretly get back at 'that kid'?" These are some of the best answers.
I taught English at a ritzy private school in South Korea. We weren't allowed to discipline the kids for any reason, no matter what, because the school was making money from the tuition.
For the most part the kids (grade 5-6) were pretty good but there was this one kid. He was always disruptive, bullying the other kids, throwing pencils, writing swear words in Korean on the white board before class, never listening, etc.
I started eating a lot of kimchi on the days I taught that specific class, which gave me wicked indigestion. When I walked by the kid I would let out these horrible silent creeping hot farts. No one ever blames the teacher and after a couple weeks he became known as the farty kid.
He was still a little prick, but it made me feel better knowing that he was knocked down a few pegs.
My stats professor said he saw a group of really talkative and distracting kids doing well, and he thought it was fishy. He looked at the tests and saw that they were all the same answers, then he looked at the seating chart and noticed that they could all look over each others shoulders to the front of the class where the smart, quiet girl sat. Solution: Give her a different test. Only her. When he handed back the tests, he told everyone who got under a certain grade, like a 50% to come see him. Each student got like a 10% or something. When they were alone, he basically said "Well, this is your punishment for cheating. Don't do it again." I thought that was awesome.
I should firstly say that I am a well reviewed teacher and have had great success with at risk students.
How do I get 'back' at students though? I don't mercy pass. I'll bend steel to get you to get your assignments in and do an okay job... But I will not mercy pass. If you got a 49, you got a 49.
High school teacher here. Had a kid we'll call Anthony. Complained about everything, did no work whatsoever, made fun of kids with disabilities, you name it. And, of course, he was always the first to start shrieking that he was the victim in every situation, everyone was against him, how come he always got picked on and so forth.
Now, in my teaching career, which has spanned the better part of a decade so far, I've taught more than a thousand kids. Plenty of those have been "bad" kids. The thing about bad kids, though, is they're usually bad for fairly simple reasons. Unmedicated or undiagnosed mental illness. Trauma in their past. Hell, maybe just lonely. If you pay attention, you can find out why almost any kid is acting out.
That said, out of 1000+ kids, I've encountered maybe ten who are genuinely broken people. You could call them sociopaths. No trace of empathy, no trace of conscience or even inner life. People who basically exist to serve their own desires, exclusively, and have no compunctions about how they might most quickly realize those desires.
Anthony was one of those kids. The worst thing about him was his constant tendency to immediately poop upon anything that anyone else had put effort into, including my lessons. We would nearly have these very vulnerable, tender moments in the classroom - where kids were talking about big, important issues and really growing intellectually in awesome and uncomfortable ways - and then Anthony would call them expletives or whatever else.
One day, this girl Patrice - an incredibly sweet girl, sensitive, with an artist's heart - is sharing something in class for the first time. Visibly nervous, shaky voice.
Anthony, of course, begins making fun of her hair, her glasses, her face. Loud enough that it's plausibly a whisper, but loud enough so that we can all hear what he's saying. I start walking toward his desk but am interrupted when Patrice very, very calmly says, "Screw you, Anthony."
The entire class was dead silent. This girl never spoke, let alone swore, and she said it with such self-control. Everyone's eyes are on me, waiting for me to react.
Anthony starts screaming DID YOU HEAR THAT? YOU ALWAYS GET ME IN TROUBLE WHEN I SWEAR, THIS AIN'T FAIR, HOW THIS GONNA...
I say "Huh? I didn't hear anything," turn back around, and continue the lesson. A few kids cheered. It felt really good.
A twelfth grader stole a bottle of water, then denied it, demonstrably lying, and got really super snotty and insulting when I called him out. A couple months later, he was devastated to learn he wasn't allowed to go on the camping field trip with all the other seniors. Like I'm going to chaperone hundreds of kids to Death Valley and take this lying thieving student and be legally responsible for whatever crap he pulls? No way, Paul. You can sit in an empty classroom and watch PBS videos while we go hiking and sit around campfires and sleep in tents and make bacon and pancakes for breakfast.
I was in a class where the professor had the two blatant plagiarists stand up and read both of their papers at the same time. Halfway through without even looking at them and his eyes turned to a wall he said out the last conclusion statement. Turns out they stole from his own body of work and they changed just enough of the paper to make it past the checker (but he reads every paper anyways). It was the most awkward and hilarious thing I have watched to this day.
He then told them that each paper they wrote would be read out loud by them after each submission and he would personally grade their papers. They also had to sit at the front and he would call on them with every open ended question first. To be clear he was furious that these two stole from him, call it their ideas, change it into a weaker structure and complain about their low-grade. He crushed them, it was great.
I was a TA for a little in school.
My professor was notorious for leaving his old tests in the lab file cabinets. Students had access to those for studying. One punk in the class went from low 60% scores to 97% stuff. I noticed his answers were "dated" (It's an old code, but it checks out). But not wrong enough to get poor marks. I compared his answers to the ones in the cabinet. Dead on.
So, I marked up an upcoming final test with the wrong answers...this test was worth 30% of the final grade. Slapped a 115% on it, left it in the cabinet, and waited. I made sure my fake answers were very official sounding and such for the unlikely event he cross checked.
He copied my fake exam word for word. Got a failing grade in the class and had to retake next semester. Guess who his TA was?
Had an AP Chemistry teacher who had three students that would only show up for the exams (our school's rules allowed unlimited skips in classes of Honors level or above) and all three would pass with identical grades, despite never sitting within eyesight of each other.
He spent the entire year trying to figure out how they could have possibly cheated.
The way our AP class worked, your grade was based solely on the final exam at the end of the year-- all other class work, homework, and exams were to help you learn and the grades for these things decided if you would be allowed to take the AP Exam.
So my teacher decided that instead of a written exam we'd have a lab exam for a final. I forget what the exam was on but I remember it was some chemical that stained your skin blue for weeks or months if it touched you. These three students never showed up for class, never knew anything about lab procedures, and ended up failing the class and having blue skin for the rest of the school year.
I had a letter mailed to my office, as in paid postage etc etc, that was basically threatening me, saying I better stop handing out Cs and Ds or "word on the street" was going to be that I was a bad teacher and no one would take my class and I'd be out of a job.
I had a pretty good idea of who it was, obviously immediately ruled out all the students doing well in my classes, but didn't think direct accusations would be really effective anyway.
I decided to take it to each of my three classes and turn it into a lesson on faulty rhetoric. My expectations were exceeded when I began to read the letter out loud and without fail each class erupted in laughter and exclaimed things like "What a jerk!" before I could even weigh in.
The kid I suspected the most definitely sat slumped in his chair without much to say that day.
Over the course of 2 and a half weeks I slowed down his mouses tracking speed until it was at the lowest setting. He was getting so aggravated and I just said "Sorry but we have a full class and there aren't any extra mice." Then I flipped it to full speed tracking the day we had all the students clean their keyboards and mice.
I have had a number of challenging students in my 15 years as a public school teacher. These kids sometimes don't know how to act. They might lash out and treat teachers with disrespect. They might blow off assignments and make other choices that increase the burdens of my job.
So - you get back at them by offering them extra attention. Helping them grow by seeking productive ways to correct their behavior. Challenging their academic failures by offering help outside school hours. Addressing holistic problems by circling the wagons and bringing outside resources to bear (including guidance, administration, and parents in a cooperative effort to encourage growth).
I get back at that kid by helping him or her get past being that kid. In the end, we can both sit back and laugh at how hard it sometimes feels to mature.
This was in a college freshman composition class. I had a student who was constantly making obnoxious, borderline racist comments in class. He thought he was the edgy class clown but mostly he was just annoying. Also wrote papers for me about how Hitler wasn't as bad as people say he is (basically using the old "he got Germany out of economic despondency" argument) and even wrote in another essay about how American soldiers need to learn to be as dedicated to America as Nazi soldiers were to Germany.
So when he finally wrote an essay that was basically just a barely coherent rant about how much he hates Muslims I reported him to the dean of students for hate speech. Other than the occasional comment about how he was being persecuted for "standing up for America" he finally stopped making obnoxious comments in class after that.
My favorite English teacher once led a discussion about Vietnam war novel The Things They Carried into a discussion about drugs and paranoia in order to mess with the dude that always showed up to class high.
She didn't look at him ONCE- just kept saying stuff to mess with him while, might I add, actually leading a very interesting conversation about drug abuse in Vietnam. I was sitting across the room from him and he looked like he was dying.
These two girls in my econ class were cheating all the time. They turned in this paper on the Federal Reserve that didn't get picked up with the plagiarism checker but they both turned in the exact same paper as each other. I told them you guys did a great job on this paper, you get 50%, and you get 50%. In retrospect I shouldn't have done it in front of the class.
Had a terrible student who was obnoxious and disruptive. He had no respect for anyone, including his classmates. I gave him a class participation grade that was just low enough to have him fail the class. Twice. He tried to appeal it, but it wasn't appealable. He changed majors and the professors in his new major hate him too.
Let them fail.
I had a student that no matter how many conversations I had with her, with her councilor, with her parent, etc, she refused to do assignments or turn anything in. She was of the opinion that my class was throwaway, an easy A.
So I let her fail. I stopped reaching out to her for the last six weeks, and let her build her own gallows for her GPA. She came to me half panicked two days before the final, begging for extra credit, anything.
"But, I'll fail."
"Yeah, you will. The real world works like this- you don't do what's required of you, you fail. I tried to help but you never cared."
"I can't have an F!"
"That's really not my problem at this point. Take it up with the principal, kid."
The way I got "back" at that kid, is tricking him into believing he's just playing and getting away with things - while he actually learned without knowing that he was actually learning.
There was a kid in my class who ALWAYS was cheating on my tests and quizzes. I caught him several times and contacted the parents, but nothing was ever really done about it (aside from the fact that he got 0's if I caught him). I don't think his mom ever really believed he was cheating as much as he was, and there were plenty of times I probably didn't catch him.
Once on the midterm, he missed the test. He came back the day I gave the kid their scores back which also had the answers, but not the questions. I saw him "sneakily" talking to his friends and they gave him their papers that had the answers on them. I didn't say anything, but the make-up midterm has the same questions with all of the answer choices moved over by one letter. He got a 3% on a multiple choice midterm. I assume he must have read one question and then copied the rest from his friends. Justice.
When I was in high school I was a librarian assistant at the elementary school that my mom taught at. There was this one little jerk who was always bullying this kid who was a little heavier set about his weight. I would always tell him to stop and he would for a bit, but the next day he would carry on. One day I finally had enough and told him that he needed to go to the principal's office and he responded with something along the lines of "I don't need to listen to you, I'm strong!" and then I knew that I needed to do something else. So I told him that since he is so "strong" that for the rest of the class period (about 30 minutes) that he would have to stand in the middle of the room with his arms stretched out. Let me just say that it is more difficult than it sounds.
He took it as a challenge and walked his stupid smug face to the middle of the library and started holding his arms out. It didn't even take a minute for him to start lowering them, and I would turn to him and say "Yeah, you must be really strong" sarcastically and he would lift them back up.
About 5 minutes had passed and then my mom walked into the library to see what was up. My mom and I chatted for a second and then she noticed the turd face standing in the middle of the room and asked what he was doing. The kid's face went red immediately. I told my mom that he was bullying other students and was disrespectful. Turns out that my mom was this kid's favorite teacher and he had no idea that I was her daughter. He ran and started crying into my mom's skirt and apologized, but my mom still took him to the principal. The rest of the year he was a little damn angel.
Looking back, I don't think I went about it in a good way, but I was 17 and had no tolerance for bullies since I was bullied a good bit in elementary. I guess things worked out in the end?
I taught math last school year at a high school. There was this really snotty disrespectful kid in my class. He was a senior and he quickly decided the class was beneath him and stopped coming.
The way I approach grading is half the grade is attendance and participation. I feel like I can teach any kid math and help them get really good at it as long as they come to my class and do what they're supposed to. The other half of the grade was going to be their comprehensive final.
Guess who comes into my class one week before finals with some sob story about how he needed me to pass him for blah blah reasons. Yeah.
So I tell him "OK here's the deal. Half your grade is attendance and participation. Half is the final. That means you can't get more than a 50% right now. However, I also don't fail anyone that gets at least a B on my final. If you were able to learn the math without being here listening to my spiel every day, fine, you pass."
Of course there was no way this guy was going to pass my final. I was teaching trigonometry and he couldn't even do basic algebra worth a darn. given his attitude toward me I have to admit I enjoyed this thought. Passing my class is SOOO important to him a week before finals, but not important enough for him to attend my lessons. Justice = served.
So he says "What am I gonna do I don't know the stuff?" So I tell him. "OK. I have a review here of all the types of problems that will be on the final. It's what we are working on all week. you come in every day and do your best and if you need extra help I'll help you at lunch time and you can try to pass my test. That or you can just give up."
Of course he realizes it's futile and gives up right? No. He actually comes in, works hard and spends every minute of every lunch in my classroom getting individual attention. And he gets an A on his final!
When I grade his test and he sees he got an A his eyes actually tear up. So I point to the test and say "Look at that math! That's some hard damned math. Most people can't do that math but you know what? You can! I wonder how many other things you can do that other people told you you couldn't do. That you told yourself you couldn't do!"
He agreed and thanked me profusely for all my help and for not letting him take the easy way out. I don't think I'll ever teach a kid a more important thing than that.
I learned to take copius notes and have a file on every student. Lazy students will often try to throw the blame on the teacher.
I had two students request a meeting with the Dean of Students to discuss my unfair grading, and I showed up with a stack of evidence. Every substantive in-person interaction was documented on the front of the file, and I included copies of every email and note on the inside.
There's nothing more embarrassing than coming face to face with your own laziness and being unable to wriggle free. They started paying attention after that.
I taught a TCP/IP networking course at a university. The assignment was to write a simple client and server in C. Circa 1992. They had to submit their code and I compiled it and tested it.
One submission had an error in a certain case, so I fixed the error to see if the rest of the cases worked. I graded the submission a 90 percent for something due to the one minor problem.
Marking another student submission I find the exact same error. Exact same variable names. I run the two submissions through Unix diff command and the only difference was the student name in the comment at the top.
I gave both students 45 percent. One complained. I told him the submission deserved a 90 but someone copied the work; tell me who the real author is and I'll give them 90, the other gets zero and reported. They both accepted the 45s.
One time there was this girl sleeping in my calculus class. Well, my teacher walked over to his desk phone and says to the rest of the class, "Did you guys hear that ring?" He proceeds to pick up the phone, nod his head and hang up. He wakes the girl up and tells her she's needed in the main office, so she leaves. The entire class is super confused. 10 minutes later she returns and is like, "They didn't need me at the office." He says "I know, but I hope that walk woke you up..."
My Abnormal Psych (a 400 level class, so you would assume people in this class were interested in the field) had us visit a local homeless shelter. This was an accelerated night class so classes were 4 hours long. She arrange for us to go during our normal class time. A few people in the class felt it was dumb or a waste of time and bailed just as the tour was starting. The final exam for that class was about 4 questions that were VERY easy to answer if you stayed for the whole tour and absolutely impossible if you did not.
Some of this material has been edited for clarity.