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.

8. That’s not how it works…

I had a girl in my grade 10 history class, and she was 20 years old.

She wrote me a short essay arguing that Quebec shouldn’t separate from Canada. Her main argument was that if it did indeed separate, then people would have to take a boat to get there because of all the water that would be in the way.

I wish I was making this up.

9. Look at what smartphones have done

There’s a lab we do involving elements and their properties in freshmen science. Students go around to different stations, each with has its own unique element.

They test/observe the elements for different properties (luster, magnetism, electrical conductivity, stuff like that).

Two years ago I had a class where after finishing at the first station, I told them all to “rotate stations clockwise,” and I had a student seriously ask me “which way is clockwise?” I was both dumbfounded and saddened by that, but I guess if you think about it a lot of students don’t wear watches anymore…

10. Everyone knows!

That when you pee you are supposed to aim for the toilet, not the floor, the garbage can, and for goodness sake please stop peeing your pants! You are in second grade!

Also your poop is to go inside the toilet, not on the wall and how in the hell did you think to fling it on the ceiling!?

Lastly, when you shit yourself in the second grade and act like nothing happened, everyone knows…everyone!

11. Wow. Just wow.

I teach English in a languages school.

One day, after class, I was talking to a student about music, and showed him some rap songs, which are very fast and hard to sing… He then said ‘they sound like squirrels speaking’, I laughed and remembered about a vine video in which a squirrel speaks very fast saying something like “thank you for these delicious walnuts you’re a very nice person I promise to come back tomorrow… Etc”, and showed him that video… And to my surprise he asked me if “squirrels actually speak that fast”, I thought he was joking but he then said that “in the movie Alvin and the chipmunks they also speak very fast, do they actually speak like that?”

You should’ve seen his face and reaction when I told him that animals don’t speak, and it’s just a dubbed audio. He couldn’t believe that. And I honestly couldn’t believe myself what I had just witnessed this guy do… He’s 22 years old.

12. Total zero

Not a teacher, but a female classmate in Technical Drafting classes came to me for help as none of her drawings seemed ok. I pointed out that her dimensions were all wrong (short) by one unit, and it dawned on me that she was measuring from the ONE onwards on her ruler.

I told her she needed to start counting from ZERO onwards and she said that was the stupidest thing she had ever heard. -“Zero doesn’t count, have you heard of the word zero value?”

She left to go ask someone else.

13. Not surprising

I had older students in a GED program for 16-21 year olds. Some were close to being homeless and many were on their last chance to not go to jail (judge ordered them to get in a program).

They all had access to proper facilities somewhere but they did not always use them. More than once I had to explain that cologne or perfume was not a good substitute for actually washing your stank ass. You know, with water and soap.

I also had to tell students repeatedly that they would not pass the GED exam simply by having been in the class. They had to extend themselves and work toward the goal.

This all seems obvious but these were kids who had never been held to high standards and had never finished anything.

It was a sad but also uplifting class to teach.

14. Icantbelievethis@really.???

Every year I have to explain repeatedly that any email address with body parts, expletives, or slurs were not appropriate to put on college applications.

Even if “iheartboobies” is a breast cancer reference it’s not acceptable.

This years “winner” was “fourinchdong@ymail.”

15. HA!

More cute than sad.

I’m an esl teacher in korea. During a class one day I was discussing the word pleasure, as in “oh, it’s my pleasure, no problem.”

The student, a young high school student jumps back in his chair as if he understands the meaning and says “oh!! Like gollum in lord of the rings! ‘My pleeaasuuure!'”

I normally don’t laugh when students make a mistake but that was just too much for me to handle.

16. This was at a private school?!?

Every year for twenty-four years I had to explain to the students and the PARENTS…

– Grades must be earned, I did not give them.

– Printed out Wikipedia pages are not original work.

– If the dog eats your homework, turn it in for credit. Do it over for credit. I can’t grade an excuse.

– I did not EVER grade on a curve.

– And, tragically, if your child threatens me, or you (the parent) threaten me, I will document the circumstances, notify my supervisor, insist that meeting with you include a neutral party from the district to protect myself and my family, and file a cursory police report.

Yes, I was a good teacher. But, there are aggressive parents out there who want their child to be given straight A’s because they pay tuition.

17. Meet Kevin

It’s not uncommon as a teacher to have students who are a bit behind the curve in certain aspects, but 99.99999% of the time they are keen on something. They might not understand how to identify a noun or what theme is, but they somehow know how to make a mean plate of nachos. You learn pretty quick to not judge fish for their tree climbing ability, ya know?

I thought this was the rule when I was teaching until I met Kevin. Kevin isn’t his real name, but it doesn’t matter because he can’t spell it anyway. Kevin was a student of mine during my last year of teaching. He came to my classroom with very little to show for his academic past. He had moved a few times and thus was missing a lot of typical test scores that we use to try and ballpark their ability (Don’t worry, it was a ballpark…..we didn’t make major decisions until we actually had a chance to talk and work with a student for a bit.) I thought “That’s fine. I’ll just do some one-on-one with Kevin and see what’s up” One on One with Kevin was like conversing with someone who’d forgotten everything in a freak, if not impossible, amnesia incident. There was no evidence that he had learned anything past the 2nd grade….and now he was in 9th grade. Flabbergasted, I figured we needed to get more serious with this. If he was going to be in my class, I needed to know why and how.

I decided to meet with him, his guidance counselor, his parents, and another teacher to see what was really going on. This is where it all became clear.

It was by some incredible fluke that his family hadn’t been wiped off the face of the Earth years ago. Odds are his entire heritage was based on blind luck and some type of sick divine intervention that saves his family every time a threat presents itself. Kevin was the genetic pinnacle of this null achievement. Even my instructional lead, a woman who could find a redeeming trait in a Balrog, failed to see any reason this kid or his family should be alive today.

So here’s a list of events that made it abundantly clear that god exists and he’s laughing uncontrollably:
– Kevin frequently forgot when/where class was. On more than one occasion, I had to retrieve him from other classrooms.
– Kevin ate an entire 24 pack of crayons, puked, and then did it again the next day. This is 9th grade. I have no idea where he got crayons.
– Kevin’s dad wrote tuition checks and mailed them to me…his English teacher. This was a public school. When I gave it back to Kevin, voided, to give to his dad with a brief note explaining that this is a public school, Kevin got in trouble for trying to spend it at 711 after school.
– Kevin was removed from the culinary arts program after leaving a cutting board on the gas stove and starting a fire….twice
– Kevin threw his lunch at the School Resource Officer and tried to run away. He ran into a door and insisted it wasn’t him.
– Kevin stole my phone during class. I called it. It rang. He denied that it was ringing. (Not that it wasn’t his, not that he did it…..no, he denied that the phone was actually ringing). He tried it three times before the end of the year.
– Kevin called the basketball coach a “Motherfucking Bitch” during gym. Basketball tryouts were that afternoon. Kevin tried out. It didn’t go well.
– Kevin’s mom could never remember which school he went to. She missed several meetings because she drove to other schools (none of which he ever went to)
– Kevin tazed himself in the neck before a football game
– Kevin kept a bottle of orange koolaide in his backpack for about 4 months. He thought it would turn into alcohol. He drank it during homeroom and threw up.
– Kevin said the N-word a lot. Kevin was white. The high school was 84% black. Kevin got beat up a lot.
– Kevin stole another student’s iPhone….and tried to sell it back to them.
– Kevin didn’t understand that his grade was dependent on tests, quizzes, homework, classwork, and participation. Kevin finished his first semester with a 3% average. He tried to bribe me with $11.
– Kevin spit on a girl and said “You should get out of those wet clothes”. The girl was the Spanish Student Teacher.
– Kevin didn’t know dogs and cats were different animals.
– Kevin tried to download porn onto a computer in the library…..at the circulation desk….while he was logged on.
– Kevin asked a girl to prom (he was in 9th grade and freshmen don’t go to prom) by asking for her phone number and then texting her his address
– Kevin got gum in his hair, constantly.
– Kevin regularly tried to cheat on assignments by knocking the pile over, grabbing one before I had picked them all up, and then writing his name on it wherever there was room.
– Kevin had several allergies, but neither his parents nor he could remember what they were. They were very concerned that “the holiday party” (it’s high school, we don’t have those) would have peanuts. When they finally got a doctor’s note….he was allergic to amoxicillin.
– Kevin and his parents took a trip to Nassau (how the fuck did they even get airline tickets?) and forgot all their luggage at home. I didn’t believe him when he told me until I talked to him mom, who told me 1st thing when I saw her at the bi-weekly meeting.
– Kevin’s grandfather apparently died in a chainsaw accident. I can only assume God was looking the other way that day.