17 Teachers Reveal the Saddest, Most Obvious Thing They’ve Had to Explain to a Student

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These responses from AskReddit users are pretty wild.

All I’m going to say is…just wait until you meet Kevin.

1. Blue. Bluer blue. The Bluest.

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.

2. Billion-Year-Olds

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.

3. They don’t know what?!

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.

4. So many depressing things…

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.

5. Actually heartwarming

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.

6. The laziest cheat ever


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.

7. That’s too far

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.