Being a teacher is one of the most soul-draining careers available. Every year you're blessed a group of students, with some of them actually excited to learn. While you can't teach everyone, you can reach out to them on an emotional level, connecting on things not always taught from a curriculum book.
However, you have to be ready for what they might say when they finally feel comfortable enough to open up to you.
Reddit user, u/DATCATGOSPLAT, wanted teachers to tell all about:
Ask for help how to get over her laziness. She was getting regular migraines so would have to hide and sleep it off. Due to her parents she learned that this was laziness.
I had a 16 year old student say: "I heard my parents fighting downstairs last night. My 10 year old brother came into my room and got into bed with me crying, because he's just now realizing we don't have a normal family".
Reminds me of when I was 10 and shared a room with my little sister who was maybe 4-7. I had to comfort her because she was crying while my parents were fighting outside. And I was praying that night that my brother was asleep since he's a deep sleeper and wasn't crying alone in his room. It was a tough few years.
"My sister didn't wake up today." Her sister complained of headaches the night before because she hit her head. Parents didn't think anything was seriously wrong. They took her off life support a few days later, she was 9. Her sister? 5 years old.
I'm not a teacher, but in junior year a teacher asked a classmate of mine where he saw himself in 10 years, & he quietly replied "dead."
The number of students who don't expect to live past college is surprising. Multiple people my age (high schooler) have told me that they don't really have a plan for college because they probably won't be around that long anyway.
Assignment was to write a poem about something you liked to pretend. Students poem started "I like to pretend that I have friends." This was in first grade.
I teach kindergarten and a girl told me "my brother died" and went on loosely about how he died, but it was a while ago since I forgot the words.
Brother, 15, had an asthma attack, had no puffer on him, died.
Now she's very emotional and going through therapy at 5 years old. It's been probably three months.
Middle school, they went on a field trip yesterday and one kid was sad because they wouldn't be at school so he wouldn't get lunch. They were fed at the field trip, but he was totally concerned that he wasn't going to get fed that day.
Principal (to class on day one): "Kindergarten is not like pre-school. Attendance matters. It's very important that you be here everyday."
Kindergartner: "What if you have to get a blood transfusion?"
I'm trying to wrap my head around the circumstances where this even needs to be said to kindergartners. It's not like they have a lot of control over their own lives, what they have a big problem with 5 year olds playing hooky and smoking cigarettes in an alley?
I've had it all.
Middle school teacher of 9 years in a very poor district here. I have had students whose siblings died to gang shootings, cop shootings, have had homeless kids, a pregnant 7th grader in my class. I've had it all.
A couple in the running:
"My boyfriend was shot in front of me and died in my arms. The ambulance we called never arrived."
"Mom went to go stay with my older sister [three states away] for a while. She told me I'm in charge of [his twin 15 year old brother] and we need to make sure we stay at [specific shelter]" ... she never came back.
A visibly sick student in class "Mom said she's working, and I tried to call my dad. He hug up on me... He doesn't care about me anyways."
On the first day of school (and the first day of my career) "How was your morning?" "Dude took two to the chest on his front porch on my way to school, don't worry though, I didn't see his face, what are we doin' today?"
"Why should I even try? I'm just stupid anyway"
He has a learning disability and has a hard time with reading and that's not to mention his ADHD with ODD (he sees a therapist every week and is way better). This trickles down to just about every subject he has. It broke my heart when he said that.
A 6 year old preschool kid took my hand and wanted to show me something he had drawn. The drawing was in dark colors and sort of angry-looking. He explained that he had drawn his heart, which was broken and hurting very bad. He said it wasn't any fun when his heart hurt like that.
He was often being excluded from the group by his classmates, sometimes even bullied. He didn't have the social skills to communicate well with his friends, which led to him being very misunderstood even though he always meant well.
"Can you be my mom?" - 15 years old, totally serious.
"This is my real family." - different student referring to the teachers and friends at school.
"I don't deserve this" - teen when given a sweater on a very cold day.
I hear a lot of this stuff. I wish there was so much more I could do.
Sets of 2....
I co-taught a class one year and we had a few twins in our classes (split between different periods).
With one set of twins, one girl was a fantastic student. She was bright, conscientious, diligent, and was a joy to have in the classroom. Her sister, on the other hand, was a mess. Never knew what was going on, had a terrible attitude, was completely disorganized, and was often disruptive. If I ever called on her, she'd roll her eyes and say "ugh I don't know" as if I was being unreasonable in expecting she be able to answer a question about something I just said 3 seconds earlier.
My co-teacher met their parents at parent-teacher night. Apparently the parents spent most of the time talking about the "good" twin and actually called the other one "the bad twin" when they did talk about her.
I felt bad after hearing that.
Friend of mine adopted a student when he turned 18 because his parents abandoned him for being gay. They make a happy dorky little family. They always got along well, she had a soft spot for him, and he has somewhere to go on school breaks. 😁
Rips my heart right out of my chest.
My mother was a teacher for nearly 30 years. She spent the last 10 years at a middle school that was pretty hard up in the Tulsa public school system. She had a very good student who came to school every day in the same clothing. We can call him J. The clothing was always washed but even so around halfway through the year, his clothing was becoming tattered and stained. The other students began to notice and make comments. The school tried to give him clothing but he refused. He would not except a hand out.
A few teachers came up with a plan for the school put on a contest where the winner was given some new, very nice, school clothing. This contest was set up for J to win. This way he could have new clothing and not feel as though he was given anything.
J won the contest. He accepted the new clothing gladly. The next day he was still wearing his old clothes. My mom asked him why he was not wearing the new clothing.
"Those are my trophies. I have them hanging on my wall."
Rips my heart right out of my chest.
"Ms. Spidey, do you know how to get [local electric company] to turn your power back on? I get paid today, but they pay me on a card, so...do I get out cash and get a money order, and where do I take it to?"
Kid was sixteen.
But kid got their power turned back on, that day, all by themselves. I didn't do spit or biscuits but teach them how to talk to people in call centers and make the introduction to the CSR.
And then later their power bill got reduced, because the school social worker has programs for that sort of thing, the local power company sent them some energy-saving free stuff, including some lightbulbs (kid and their siblings had been short some lights at home for a while,) and we got their water and sewer discounted as well.
School social worker's a pal. Their surviving parent was trying, it's just hard with a parent of their own who isn't well, that many kids and two fast-food jobs.
Kid is in college now. Damn near full ride. Commutes from home to save money, puts their housing stipend towards the family rent, utilities and gas for their own old Toyota. Their parent looks like they just took their first breath in ten years.
I'm proud of all my students, but especially that one.
Last week I asked my freshmen what their weekend plans were, and one kid said he was finally meeting his birth mother. He was nervous and excited and said he had so many questions to ask her.
Monday rolls around and I see that he looks sad. I ask him how the meeting went and he said in the saddest voice, "she didn't show."
I wanted to cry right there.
High school teacher at a school for at risk youth so I get a lot of depressing stuff. I really bonded with one student about comic books and even let him borrow my first edition Umbrella Academy comics. He was homeless and living at a friends house on a yoga mat on the floor for the better part of a year. He asked me to adopt him :( wish I could, buddy. I wish I could. My students are the reason I want to become a foster parent though.
I'm a counselor for kids in the foster program.
Kid: "Why does everyone else in my class have one dad but I have different ones all the time?"
Foster program can be really tough on kids.
Me: "So, what are you most looking forward to when you go to college?"
Student: "Oh, I've never had my own bed to sleep in before."
"That seems like..."
I'm not a teacher, but when I was in school, a classmate, when asked to introduce herself said her name and that her parents died when she was young which is why she lived with her aunt and sat back down.
That seems like the sort of thing you learn to do so that everyone knows right off the bat. You don't have to constantly correct people, "Oh, it'll actually be my aunt, not my mom..." or deal with their shock and pity over and over again. This way you get it all over with in one fell swoop.
"The poor kids..."
Not me but my mother-in-law is a substitute nurse for a few schools, one of which is mostly pretty poor kids. Well at the beginning of one Friday a boy came with his backpack and his sister's to leave is for the nurse. He was kinda nervous/sad that the regular nurse was out and my MIL said "maybe I can help, what does she normally do with your backpacks?" He blurted out "she fills them with food for us!" The poor kids didn't have much food at home so that angel nurse was sending them home on Fridays with food to last them the weekend.
"I'm not a teacher..."
I'm not a teacher but my 3rd grade teacher was having a really bad day with many kids behaving badly. She had us line up and go to her desk one by one and tell her (quietly) if there was something upsetting us that day. I don't know what the other kids told her but I told her that my mom had shouted at me that morning "No one will ever love you!" Knowing my classmates and the area we were living in I'm sure she heard some sad stuff. She went on stress leave shortly thereafter.
Edit: Thank you for the kind comments. Yes, life got much better for me as an adult. I'm happily married now with three kids who get to worry about regular kid problems instead of dealing with verbal and physical abuse at home like I did and my mom did and probably her parents did.
Student: I want to play with my friend today, but her dad died, so she can't come over.
Me: oh no, I'm so sorry to hear that.
Student: yeah, my mom said God is punishing her.
I explained that "God" does not punish people like that and it is NOT her friend's fault that her dad passed away.
"Student of mine drops out..."
Other moments in my career that have touched me:
- Student of mine drops out to get a job, happens quite a bit because of the economy where we live. Student in question is couch hopping and trying to support himself and can no longer afford to not work, so I don't see him for 6 months. On his 19th birthday, he had the day off and you know what he did? He came to school to visit me, because he knew I would be happy to see him and he would get at least one happy birthday from someone who cares about him.
- Any time a student says anything like "You're the only one who cares about me." "You're the reason I come to school." "You're the reason I graduated." Etc. Kills me every time. Anyone can graduate high school but they lack the confidence in themselves to see it. I try so hard EVERY day to let them know they can do it, but they go home and get the opposite from their parents.
Some days I might be the only positive interaction a student has. I always say good morning when they come in and good bye when they leave, so they know they're being noticed. I try to always use their names when greeting them so they know it's specifically for them. I try to remember important dates for them, birthdays/court dates/if they're going to their driving test that day and congratulate them personally or ask how it went. I want them to know they're seen and someone cares.
"There was a student..."
There was a student who constantly said some pretty sad stuff like "my mommy doesn't like me", "I'm not getting presents for Christmas", "my mommy hit my daddy last night".
Turns out her mother was abusive to her (and her husband) and refused to even touch her. (Plus a lot of other terrible stuff) Her parents have split and she is now in a safe home where she is loved. She was only 4 at the time.
"When I was..."
When I was in training I worked in an inner city school, we were discussing what they wanted to be when they grow up and one 8 year old said, "It doesn't matter I'm going to be in a gang and dead before I'm 21."
It's hard when you see it in your own family though. One of my elementary schoolers was casually explaining to me how his brother is in prison for selling drugs because he couldn't afford a good enough lawyer.
"I've only been teaching..."
I've only been teaching for around nine months, but one sticks out.
I do a lot of 1-to-1 work with a reception-aged child (4-5) who has quite severe ADHD and needs constant supervision. I get to take him outside and do gross motor work with him, and I've really took a shine to him.
Broke my heart a couple of weeks ago when he was stopped by the deputy head and told off for running down the corridor. He burst into tears, which is completely unlike him, and said, "I just can't get the naughty out of my brain."
"A skinny nine year old..."Giphy
"I really need to lose some weight.. I'm SO fat!" A skinny nine year old of mine told me this.
"My student told us..."
My student told us that her mom was taken by ambulance to the hospital the night before after she stopped breathing. The other kids pressed her on what happened and she just shrugged and said her mom would be ok. Two days later, I got the word that her mom was brain dead. Her daughter had no idea. That Friday afternoon, I let the kids have an extra recess and watched my student play and laugh with all the other kids in the sun knowing that she might not be happy like that again for a long time.
"Not really something he said..."
Not really something he said, but when I was tutoring a Somali refugee student (he was 15 years old,) the students were told to draw pictures (of their background or life, I think.) He drew pictures of...... houses on fire.
"She never realized..."
Not a teacher but one of my close friends. I've known her since the start of high school. She never realized her home life was as bad as it was. She spoke about her mom neglecting her while the 14 foster cats they could barely afford to feed were spoiled rotten, and how eating the same thing every night - her only meal for the day started to make her nauseous. The real kicker is that her mother got cancer, and as soon as she died, she said "I'm so glad she's dead.
I wish she'd died sooner." Or something along those lines. She was 16 when her mother died, and she's 18 now. She's never going to leave those horrible scars and the things she tells me about are horrifying.
She lives with her dad now and has a proper home, regular good meals, etc. I have no idea how her dad didn't get custody when she was a child. He's an amazing dad to her and would probably do anything to help her more.
"I'm expecting 2 months"
Foster Kid who left my school a few months ago. She has been to countless homes and foster families. Despite us thinking her current one is great, she still expects they will leave.
Growing up in foster care, I never lasted anywhere more than 10 months. My entire childhood, after being taken from my birth dad (who was not abusive in the least, just not great at taking care of a kid), I never had the same family for more than 10 months. Usually much shorter than that.
I still struggle to stay in one place for an extended period. It's like the uneasiness of not moving claws at my insides.
"Can I have a Band Aid?"
I had a 7 year old ask me for a bandaid. When I asked her what was wrong and she pulled up her shirt to reveal a big burn in the middle of her chest.
Mum had put a cigarette out in her "because she was being naughty."
"Don't waste your time with me, I won't be able to learn this, I'm too stupid for this."
A student from 12th grade said this to me while trying to explain him properties of exponents and logarithms.
I could not believe a 17 year old thinks he's a failure so early in life. He had the attitude of someone who just gave up on trying to learn things.
"She was 7."
"I have never [met] my parents."
She was 7.
This will get buried, but just yesterday I asked one of my special needs kids how his 2 dogs, Goofy and Mickey, are doing.
He said, "Mickeys at the pet store."
We had a really bad snow storm on a Wednesday and a Thursday. On Friday, we had classes again, but like half the kids were missing for obvious reasons. During morning circle, we went around the room and talked about what everyone did during the snow days.
One girl said that she'd cried a lot because there wasn't much to do at her dad's, and she was so hungry because there wasn't enough food. We sent her home with as many extra snacks and breakfasts (cereals, bars, etc) as we could fit in her bookbag, but I still went home and cried that night. She was 7.
"I won't be able to turn in my homework today."Giphy
"I won't be able to turn in my homework today."
"My parents got in a really big fight yesterday. Things got crazy so I wasn't able to do my homework. Can you tell the rest of my teachers for me, please?"
"I just want someone to like me."
11 year old autistic kid in special ed that was bullied on the regular. Said to me in private: "I don't know why I act out all the time... I just want someone to like me." To which I answered "Well, I like you, I want to be your friend.". Kid goes: "I really like that you want to be my friend, but I would like a classmate to want to be my friend too..."
Yeah, tears were shed.
"Asked a kid..."
Asked a kid/student of mine what she wanted to be when she grew up. She said she didn't want or need a job, because her mum doesn't have a job and she gets 500 pound a week (welfare). I almost resigned on the spot.
"One day I heard a kid..."
Not a teacher, but have had many a 'leader' role with groups of kids. (Coach, instructor, scouts, etc). I always went out of my way to make sure every thing we did was fun. I'm a giant kid myself. Imagine hockey coaches standing near the bench yelling to the little kids on what to do. I'm the one in a different Disney jersey every time, skating, diving, falling, laughing it up with the kids on the ice.
One day I heard a kid tell my son of the same age "Man I wish my dad was like your dad." You would think I would be happy about it, but no. It hit me hard. His dad was certainly not like me, and this kid had a difficult home life. For him to actually say he wished his dad was like me hurt. It was a double edge sword. Its a moment I'll never forget.
"Mary won't be here today, her mom died last night."
Student: "Mary won't be here today, her mom died last night."
Me: "Wait, didn't her dad pass away a few weeks ago?"
Both parents died suddenly within a few weeks of each other from different medical conditions.
"I teach pretty much exclusively college freshmen..."
I teach pretty much exclusively college freshmen and by that point they all have that fatalistic sense of humor anyway, but it gets real sad when they get to the end of their rope. Nothing specific that I can remember, but a lot of "why did I think I could make it in college" "I'm too stupid for this I should drop out" and they actually mean it. Stuff like that.
Monday however a student asked to talk to me before class and said "I know this paper is important and all and I don't want you to hate me but I couldn't get my paper done..." and I'm used to this sort of thing, I mean, it's just natural, but then he take a deep breath and blurts out "my dad called me last night and told me he was leaving my mom and moving away so he's leaving me too and I just couldn't deal with it, I'm really sorry if you're mad at me." It just hits me hard when they have to deal with more than they should and on top of that they think I've formed a personal opinion of them and that I'm going to think badly of them based on something like this.
"Please don't send me home."
5 year old preschool girl with 103 degree fever, sicker than sick. She BEGS the nurse, "please don't send me home." She was allowed to sleep in the nurse's office until the end of the day.
That was about 2.5 years ago. A few months later she was removed by CPS and has been with a foster family (me) for nearly 2 years now.
"What's the point...?"
I ran holiday science workshops, filled with brainy kids as you'd expect. There was an 11 year old girl who was brilliant at everything, the content was clearly beneath her. Very quiet, respectful, well liked by the other kids. Her parents were moving soon because she received scholarships to a prestigious school. Whenever her dad came to pick her up he was obviously proud, telling me about all her achievements, how she was in advanced classes, just won all these sports awards too, etc. Showed videos and photos of her winning all these soccer games.
They enrolled her younger brother in similar sessions. He gave it a go in the first few but really struggled, always the last to finish and felt his work didn't look as good as the others. Looked embarrassed to ask for help. He screamed at his sister when she tried to fix his circuit. Eventually he just began acting out, putting off the work, challenging me to get a laugh out of the other kids, messing around. After a disastrous month he stopped trying altogether.
He just came in one afternoon and sat there, not doing anything. I tried to engage him in the activity and said if he didn't like what the other kids are doing, we could pick anything else he wanted to do. He said something like, "What's the point. My parents will never love me as much as they love my sister."
"Can we use the student computer?"
I've had a lot but one morning two students came in early to my room and asked if they could use my student computer. I said sure, and figured that they just needed to finish a project and knew I always got to school early.
Turns out their best friend was murdered 2 days before because he wouldn't give his money he earned to someone trying to rob him. His family needed the money to not be homeless, so he died trying to look out for his family (and for like $80 or something).
My students were creating flyers and a gofundme so they could try to help the parents not be homeless, and to afford a funeral.
To make matters worse, the kid was murdered on a Saturday. He was left to bleed out and die, to be found the next morning. Murderer CAME TO MY SCHOOL on Monday as if nothing had happened. Cops pulled him out of the class in the middle of the day once they had figured out it was him.
They Shoot Me Up
I had a student that frequently lingered in my classroom after school. She often looked ill and was always very weird. One day she opened up to me and said that her mother and her live-in boyfriend shot up heroin every night. I told my principal after she spoke to me and she informed that CPS was already involved. A few days later the same girl told me that her mom and boyfriend would shoot her up with heroin and tell her that she couldn't tell anyone they were still doing it because she would get in trouble for doing it too. She asked me to keep it a secret (which I obviously couldn't) because she was worried she'd get arrested for drug use.
She no longer lives at home thankfully.
"One of my students..."
One of my students calls me dad, because his dad is abusive and I am not. Worth noting the student is trans, and that is why his dad abuses him. All I do is respect his pronouns. Also worth noting, I am a woman living in the Deep South, and I still let him call me dad because it makes him happy, even though him calling me something unprofessional/me respecting his pronouns could get me fired. All his lgbtq friends have picked up on it as well. I am considered a "safe teacher". Maybe not as heartwrenching as others, but it breaks my heart.
"My dad told my therapist that he never wanted to have a kid. He didn't even bothered to ask me to leave the room"
Broke my heart.
"One of the items..."
I'm not a teacher, but one drama lesson we started by playing a little game, we were given an object and had to pretend it was something else but that object.
One of the items was a empty cardboard box, and it was passed around the circle as such items like footballs, hats, boxing gloves.. etc etc. But when it got to this one boy, he opened the box, looked inside and said 'this isn't a cardboard box, it's my will to live' and passed it onto the next person with no facial expression whatsoever.
He didn't mean it (hopefully) and laughed afterward, but it sure did result in an awkward silence for a few seconds.
"I eventually asked..."
I work as a guidance counsellor for a high school. I was helping one girl with university applications, and she kept saying "I don't know" whenever I asked her about a certain school, program, etc.
I eventually asked if she had any ideas of where she might like to apply to, and she said "I don't think it matters, I'll be dead before I graduate".
I found out she had been admitted to the hospital days later for a failed suicide attempt. This was a few years ago; she visited me last week to show me her acceptance letter to uni AND her one year clean of self harm token.