Teaching is hard. Not only because the job is to force-feed stuff into a brain that may not be feeling receptive in that moment, but also because you become a major figure in these people's lives.
Sometimes that means getting to know things about them that aren't always pleasant. The mental stress and heartache can be just as intense as the joys and successes.
One Reddit user asked:
And it was an eye-opening read, honestly. If you've never worked in education or you believe educators are overpaid babysitters allow these responses to shed some light on the realities of the education system.
"I wish my dad was still alive". From a 1st grader, cutest kid ever, struck my heart really hard.
"I wish you were my dad."
Me, stupidly: "Why's that?"
"Cause then I would have a dad."
The thing that gets me is he said it not sadly or bitterly, but in a calm, matter-of-fact tone.
"I wish you were my mom." Or "I wish I could go home with you." Both said from same boy, different times.
Back story, his mom had left him in the car during the summer (I live in Arizona with 100 + heat during the summer time.) Cops were called and she lost custody. He lived with his grandmother who didn't necessarily want to be his guardian and you could tell this guy just needed proper love and attention. I totally would have taken him home with me if I could have.
The abuse stories on their own are the most depressing, but cumulatively most depressing are the kids who have totally screwed up lives and don't know it. Like, mom taking off for six months and they don't know where, dad and the neighbors having a screaming fight and the police coming, not showering for a week, parent in jail for the weekend, parents take their ADHD medicine instead of them, that kind of thing. And they aren't telling me this in confidence to share a difficult time, they are just talking about their day, these things are totally normalized to them.
I worry what kind of behaviors they will accept from others and what situations they will find themselves in if this is their template of normal.
I worked with one boy who got a math question wrong, when I told him it was wrong he said "Stupid boy. Stupid boy" I told him he wasn't stupid at all and explained how to correct his answer (he had simply written 125 as 10025). I spent ten minutes explaining how everyone gets things wrong and it doesn't make him stupid. Teacher took over to find out where he had picked up the phrase.
Letters to Santa
Wife's class had students write Santa wish letters. One kid wished he didn't have to sleep with bugs in his bed anymore.
Teachers are required reporters, she would have HAD no choice in reporting that. I know that doesn't mean much, but as a teacher myself, I can almost guarantee she reported it. For all the good it may have done.
Ma'am / Mom
I'm not a teacher, but I volunteered to teach/tutor back in college. I remember my volunteering experience to a charitable organization in our university where they rehabilitate teenagers in conflict with the law. I was teaching 3 teenage boys that time...and instead of calling me "Ma'am", they were calling me "Mom."
I corrected them repeatedly about the pronunciation, but they insisted on calling me "Mom". I was on my late teens that time, I think I wasn't even 20 when I was with those boys. It just saddens me to think that maybe the closest person they had as a mother figure was me.
Kids can be brutal. My dad died when my little brother was in the 5th grade. Two weeks after the funeral he went back to school. He got into a fight with a girl and she said to him at one point "well at least I have a father".
The class was mortified - girl got suspended for three days.
Not a teacher, but helped in a classroom once.
Me: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
Kid: They're all dead.
I immediately changed the subject.
Back in 2018 I had one student excitedly telling the class about how his new job was going. I asked him what he did with his first pay cheque and if he had bought himself something nice...he paused, and then said awkwardly "My dad took the whole thing from me to go and drink."
His class mates laughed at him to which I told them off quickly. Of course they're just kids so they didnt understand fully the gravity of the situation but I knew and felt really bad for him.
The 8-1 Shift
Back when I was a kid my mom taught at the neighborhoods public school. She saw something going on once, found out what was going on (home was a mess for this child and basically they'd eat only a couple of times a week), told the headmaster and sorted out a plan to have the kid have lunch at school before being sent back home, during the last break of the day. For those wondering, no, there was no cafeteria at school and it was an 8am-1pm shift back then, so basically no kid had lunch at school.
That "little gesture" by the school not just changed the kids attention and grades at school, but basically their whole (previously nonexistent) happiness and well-being.
I was teaching music where every kid had their own instrument issued by the school. One kid always showed up with no instrument so I asked her what's up.
She said she was homeless and had no where to store the instrument. F*ck.
A kid told me his little brother was really bad and they put him in a dog cage. I told the school guidance counselor and the social worker. But I never found out what happened afterwards. Privacy. This just happened last year.
Affected By Politics In A Way I Never Was At Their Age
I taught some enrichment classes last summer and out of the blue a girl, probably 13 or 14 said, "Trump is going to kill us all."
Said it with this vacant look in her eye as she played on the computer. Then she looked at me for a response. Other kids heard it and kind of got quiet. It was very evident in that moment that these kids were being affected by politics in a way I never was at their age.
I told her that there were systems in place to stop his bullshit and we'd be fine and this was a moment in history that is rocky but if history is an indicator we'd come out of this just fine.
Seeing how hundreds of thousands of Americans are dying, I feel bad for lying to her.
I worked as a special education teacher. One of the boys I worked with would repeat things he would hear, so we had to be careful. Apparently his dad would call him stupid, because every time he made a mistake he would say, "ugh I don't know why I named you junior you're so stupid".
Story time: I had a 3rd grade student come into my art-room. She had some kind of bites all over her arms and neck such that it really freaked me out. I asked her what did it and she said she stayed over at her aunts house and got spider bites. I though, no...it can't be. It's probably bedbugs, so I told the office about it. They said they had already confirmed with the nurse... SPIDER BITES!
*we're talking hundreds of them.
Coming to America
I teach adult refugees and I end up crying maybe once a week because of the stuff my students go through.
Some things I've heard from my students:
- House bombed twice.
- Daughter attacked by acid twice by the same group of people.
- Kicked out of their country for being from a specific region.
- Half of their family murdered by soldiers....
IN FRONT OF A TEACHER!
I worked at a daycare for a while as a teacher's assistant. There was one kid, no older than 5, who was super mature for his age. We were playing house one day and he walked over to the stove and pretended to fully cook some eggs for me and then wash the dishes, insisting I sit while he do it. It was very sweet and I told him he was very considerate for doing that. He shrugged and said he did it at home all the time. I asked if his mom played with him on a kitchen set at home. He shook his head and told me it was the real stove. This kid told me his mother had him cooking her eggs and doing the dishes at five years old.
Naturally, I told the head teacher and she said she'd make note of it and talk to the kids mom when she came to pick him up, then I left for the day. I never saw him again, because when his mom got there and was asked about it she straight up backhanded her son for telling, IN FRONT OF A TEACHER. He was taken away from her after a very short investigation and the mom got jail time.
A grade 6 kid....
A grade 6 kid I had struggled with some intellectual disabilities. He was a bit of a target for a school bully. One day the bully called him gay. He got so upset and was crying. When I talked to him about it, he said that "his parents would hate him if he was gay because in his religion, they have to hate gay people"... sad on a few different levels. I really felt for that kid...
"My Dad's a teacher and he said he makes no money. Do you make no money, too?"
Okay... I mean it was a little funny... but I definitely sighed during lunch.
"I'm so sorry, its all I have."
I worked in the main office of my school for several hours every day as a student office aid because I took 2 hours worth of class a day. I knew pretty much all of what went on in the school. A teacher who was a huge jerk and sorry excuse for a teacher once chewed a girl out because her shirt was just a tiny bit too short (it was obviously too small for her too). The girl responded with, "I'm so sorry, it's all I have." Y'all my heart broke. This girl was obviously less fortunate and it was probably truly all that she had. It broke my heart to see this teacher bully this girl like she did so many other kids.
I was the student, but in 3rd grade my teacher came up behind me and put her hand on my shoulder to ask if I needed help. I flinched so hard I flipped the desk over. She had seen a lot of evidence of the abuse before that day, but it was that day that she took me home. She refused to release me back to my mother until the cops showed up and threatened her with kidnapping charges and she had no choice. My 5th grade teacher did something similar. I appreciate that they tried to help, but their hands were tied and no one who really could help was willing to, despite truckloads of evidence. It was people like those teachers that showed us there were good people in the world.
To you Sir....
"Sir you are my favorite teacher, I've really enjoyed you teaching me." This was said during the middle of the school year which was a bit odd. A few days after this he committed suicide, he showed no warning signs and he was a really great kid of 14 who was a young carer for his sister with Downs syndrome. It's great getting praise like this but whenever I think of him this always sticks in my mind.
I'm not really a teacher of reddit, but I heard a my 3rd grade teacher say the most depressing thing in my life. Me and my teacher were friends because she always said me and my best friend were her favorite students, we were having a normal conversation until she said, "I hope I am still alive to attend your graduation." I have been thinking about it ever since.
Football player that was on his last chance to pass a sophomore class. His parents never believed in him and would routinely throw out his schoolwork. He told us how he wanted to go to a certain college and his parents laughed at him because "you'll never be anything!" He was sobbing when he told us.
Happy ending: we worked with him every day, got him as much partial credit as we could, worked his butt of to catch up, tutored him during lunches...... he passed. He was accepted to the college of his choice, we were the only ones that celebrated with him because his parents told him he'd flunk out anyway. I really hope he got away from his toxic family.
A student whom I helped pick a bonnet for the student's mom as her hair started falling out due to chemotherapy. That student was 15 at the time as well.
"I want my mom!"Giphy
6 year old girl, sobbing her eyes out, "I want my mom!"
Me, in a soothing voice: "your mom is going to be here soon. No need to cry. It's okay."
6 year old girl: "my mom's in prison."
Me, trying to quickly recover, "ohh. Okay, honey. Well, your dad will be here soon."
6 year old girl: "my dad's in prison, too."
Me, trying to hold back tears, "who's picking you up, sweetie?"
6 year old girl, "my grandma. We live with her."
Me, rubbing her back as she sobs, "it's okay, honey. It's okay."
My mother has been a teacher in a poor community for many years. She told me that she overheard one of her students telling another student about how they got extra food stamps around Christmas time. They said "we have so much cereal at our house now. We even have BACON!!"
I'm a trainer at my job, but my classes are 2 weeks and there is 40-50 students in each.
I had a man come in saying that his landlord threatened to put him on the street if he didn't rehome all of his pets. So he reached out to every animal shelter within 2 hours and nobody had any room for his 5 cats. I ended up reaching out to the entire company for him and we found homes for the cats and guinea pigs. But my god was it heartbreaking to watch a man twice my size cry over his beloved pets being forced into new homes. I hope this job allows him to relocate.
I'm the school counselor. Pretty much any awful thing you can imagine a kid has, unfortunately, told a teacher and/or the counselor.
Never the Same
I taught kindergarten, primary and high school.
One little girl was very much a chatterbox, always happy and friendly. She had lots of friends in class. She wasn't naughty, she would always pay attention but she just loved to interact.
One day that all stopped. Every day she was silent, would not interact with others. And she looked sad all the time.
I asked the other kids what was going on... behavioral changes are always worrying. The kids said her mom had suddenly gotten sick, gone to hospital, and passed away there. In the space of a month.
I taught her for the rest of the year. She still did her work but she was not the same. I hope she got better in later years.
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Age is a #
Asked how old I was. I told him I was 23. He said "wow my brothers only 19 and he's already dead" changed the subject real quick but never forgot that moment.
Not a teacher, but in grade 11 I told my math teacher "I will never use math again." I have to assume that would be pretty depressing to hear.
Also, I am now an accountant.
The Little Things
Student (6th grader) ran into my room because he was super excited to tell me that his apartment was going to be fumigated to get rid of the bed bugs. He was so exuberant and full of joy. It broke my heart.
Another student told me that other students had been calling her the N word for years (junior in high school). I was shocked. When I asked if she'd ever reported it she said no. I asked why and she said she was used to it and it's not like anyone would do anything about it anyway. This was the last week of school and I had just quit teaching (she was helping me pack up my room after her final), so I told the admin and other teachers and admin told me she had to report it for them to take action. I told her she needed to report it, but she said she didn't want to make it "a big deal" or be accused of "pulling the race card." That school was filled with racist little sh!ts and I'm glad she's now out of there.
My student (19F) from Saudi Arabia wrote an essay about how she had medical issues that led to her needing a hysterectomy. She felt like she no longer had a purpose in the world because she could never be a mother and that it would be very difficult to find a husband. She worried that her parents dreams for her would never come true.
I was surprised that she was so willing to share that with me but perhaps she didn't have many people she could open up to about it either.
I had a student whose parents referred to her as "it" and "that girl". Even her grandparents called her "that girl" or "the girl" (I met them several times and they did the same in school communications). They never used her name and were never affectionate. She asked me to use her nickname in class after knowing her for a few months and I happily obliged thinking it wasn't a big deal. She cried. She wasn't used to adults using her name at all never mind her preferred name.
I had to write a poem in English/Lit class like 11th or 12th grade. Got me held after class and told me she was worried about me and the poem was really depressing or some such and she had to report it to the counselors. Told me I could go and as I got to the door she said it was really good work.
A kid was sad he didn't get as high a grade as another student. I told him "you don't need to compare yourself to him, just improve on yourself!" And he said "but I am nothing. How am I supposed to improve on nothing?"
Send Me Back
Not a teacher but had a brief stint as a TA a few years ago. I was grading English classwork and one student wrote:
"I don't like it here, I wish I could go back home to my country."
For reference, this student was a refugee from a civil war. I forget the exact country, my apologies. It just hit hard for me.
"My daddy's in Mexico, he can't come see my work. My daddy's in jail... he loves me a lot. I know that." 5 year old with a speech-language impairment and Autism. LilBird1946
Top 3 that don't include abuse:
- A 6th grader explaining how her dad has been arrested 27 times.
- 8th grader describing finding his brother's body on the stairs of their apartment after he was shot randomly.
- 8th grade truant because her mother makes her stay home with her other eight children, so she can go to college. Mom was too lazy to take the kids to head start. 50_first_usernames
"Hey I know her!"
Not something he said but still really sad. I was a teaching intern for a 5th grade class. There was this kid who every time I would come in (3 days a week, every week lol) he'd go "Hey I know her!" and I'd always laugh. He was really funny and so spirited, I loved him. Then when talking to my mentor teacher, I found out his parents are harshly strict almost to the point of irrationality for a 5th grader (10-11 years old), and that his grandfather had died which he took very hard because they were very close. I know this may not seem as upsetting or depressing as the other stories, but I admire that kid so much. His positivity and dedication to do what he likes despite the obstacles he's already faced will do him so well in the future. I miss you buddy, really sad that 2020 ruined the rest of our only year together. :/
I taught my kids until high school. Most depressing thing was we had a neighbor girl who was my oldest's age who was also home schooled. Her mother was very smart but was a terrible alcoholic and her daughter was trouble from a very early age.
One day she rode her bike over to see if my daughter could play. I answered the door and told her all my kids would be in studying until 3pm, but she could come over for dinner if she liked.
"My mom doesn't make me study until 3. She does all my schoolwork for me." It wouldn't have been so bad if she had grown out of that, but that was a long time ago, and she didn't grow out of it.
"What's the point of planning for the future? The world is going to end in 7 years anyway because of climate change?" - High School Junior
"Nobody knows what to do with me." The same kid committed suicide a year later. The Principal called a staff meeting before school one day (which always means something bad happened) and told us of his suicide. Pretty much all of us teared up.
He was one of those kids who acted out, always in the principal's office, etc. I didn't know him well, but seemed like the kind of kid who didn't want to be malicious, but didn't know how to deal with his issues.
I taught a course called "Confident Kids" to 3rd & 4th grade girls who didn't know each other. It was a class offered to the community. We sat at a table and had to write things down for some of the activities, so we had paper and pencils in front of us during the class. One 2nd grade girl was in the group.
She was the youngest of 3 siblings being raised by a single dad (construction worker). The mom was a drug user and had left the home for good when she was 2.
During an activity in the 3rd week she passed me a note she had written that said "Can you be my mom?"
Death In The Family
Me: Where's Jessica today?
Student: she won't be in for a few days. Her mom died last night.
Me: Oh man that's horrible. Wait, didn't her dad pass away like 2 months ago?
This girl and her brother were good kids and both her parents, as far as I could tell, were pretty good. She's doing okay from what Facebook tells me.
Damn. This hit close to home for me. I teach as well.
She lost her dad and her home life completely fell apart. She was absent so much. I was like, "Where she at? Any of you know what's up?"
"Yeah her dad died and her mom just stopped caring about everything including her."
Kid was one of the last children to be collected.
Me: Do you know who's coming to get you today? Mom? Or maybe Aunt?
Kid: Yeah, probably Mom. Or it could be Dad. Oh, wait...
Kid trailed off as he remembered that his dad died recently.
Interestingly Dad had never lived near or picked him up before but I guess it was on his mind still anyways.
Thick Skin Needed
At the beginning of this academic year I was mentoring a student teacher in my classroom. This six feet plus bearded man in his late 30s had to leave the room in tears and I only just held it together when a 7 year old girl said, ' I wish I had a daddy like you. You say nice things to me'. All he had done was to tell her he liked her hair band.
Doesn't matter how much experience you have, you'll always be reminded of the crap hand some children are dealt and how every little gesture can count.
Once, a student dug my almost finished granola bar out of the trash, and ate the rest of it in front of me. They were trying to hide it. I didn't know much about the economic status of the area I was teaching in, so it was a shock. That was tough to see.
My Mommy Night
Taught a creative writing class last summer, and an 11-year-old girl wrote a personal narrative called "My Mommy Night." It was about her mom having a screaming match with her boyfriend "as always" and how she (my student) took care of her 1-year-old sister and "was more of a mom to her than my own mom!" She wrote about it with such a tone of pride, and even drew a picture, but of course it was gutting to read.
Thankfully, at the end of the course, I was glad to see that her grandmother was the one who attended the showcase. Her grandmother revealed in the course review that she was going through a change of her living situation and that the class was therapeutic for her. That was a relief.
I hope she's thriving and writing up a storm!
"Master Of Education"
I'm not the teacher, but a witness. I had a mysterious classmate; awkwardly silent, the teacher kept punishing this kid as he never did his homework or/and showed up to class in time. However the kid never complained or talked. He had only 1 word, 'sorry.'
The teacher kept bragging around 'No one disrespects me! I'm the master of education!'
The kid eventually stopped school.
Later the news reported a kid found hung near a butchery... it was the same kid from my class. His parents both died a year ago in a car accident and his only sister had developed a brain tumor.
Even before this incident, the teacher was reported several times by many parents and I heard later in that summer he got suspended from working... but I'm not sure if it's true since back then we heard the same thing before and the following year we would find him again in school.
A Journal Response
"Why do I have to do this online work when my family around me is sick and dying?" A journal response through google classroom when we were told to call home during lockdown to get engagement up.
I responded to him and empathized with him. I told him I got it and to do what he could. Maybe use some activities as a distraction or a way to focus on a new task. He ended up doing work here and there for the last few weeks but I refused to call home again.
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