Teachers have to deal with a plethora of different kinds of students and they do their best to make sure every single one of them has an equal shot at succeeding. Some students, for both good reasons and bad, are just lost causes.
Below are stories from teachers about the one student that they lost all hope in, as told on AskReddit. Check them out!
(Content has been edited for clarity.)
"My wife had a student in the third grade who refused to do any writing assignments. My wife told him that she was going to call his parents to explain to them what was going on if he didn't start doing his work. He said 'I don't care. My mom said I don't have to do anything I don't want to do. Rules don't apply to me.'
My wife ended up calling the mother, and the mom confirmed she told her son that. She said that my wife just had to understand that was how her son acted. He didn't have to do anything he didn't want to do at home, so she told him that he didn't have to do it at school either. The kid was a problem child all year long, but it was impossible to get the mom on board with addressing these behaviors.
It's a private school, and behavioral issues lead to the family leaving the school. I have no clue where the kid is now, but I imagine his teens years are going to be rough if his mom doesn't change her attitude."
"I'm a college instructor. I once had a student send me an angry email complaining to me that she had shown up to the class that morning and that it was rude that I had not also been there. More than that, it was even worse that none of her 100 classmates bothered to show up either.
The email came at 10 a.m. The class was held at 11:30 a.m. There was no convincing her that she should maybe consult her calendar."
"This story happened on a Friday and the teacher spent a good chunk of class talking us through the things he was going to do with us in a lab on Monday.
It was a chemistry class. You don't have to remember PV=nRT, but that was the fundamental basis of the entire test we had taken that Thursday. That Friday, my teacher started a new section and was working on showing us the setup for a new problem. Well, this one girl raised her hand and asked what he was working on. Pretty much the only thing on the board so far was a PV=nRT equation.
He wasn't sure what she was asking, so he said, 'I'm not sure what you're asking, so far this is just PV=nRT.' She responded by saying, 'I don't know what that is.'
He was speechless for five minutes. I've never seen that before. He continued on with the class. He didn't show up to class the following Monday, and we had a new teacher for the remainder of the semester. Rumor was that he refused to apologize to an 'unnamed' student. I personally know that he was fine because he showed up to our bowling league the remainder of the year."
"My brother teaches at a middle school. One of his coworkers is described as the nicest teacher ever; always calm, in for a laugh, an all-around great guy with the added benefit that he teaches well too.
Last Friday, that teacher had to babysit a classroom where their scheduled teacher was absent. One student was constantly annoying and keeping other students off their tasks, and even standing up/trying to run around/physically annoy nearby students. The teacher grabbed said student by the arm and sat him down on his chair with the words 'now stay down!' about 20 students in that classroom can confirm this.
The student afterward claimed he fell off his chair because the teacher pushed him. I don't know what happened except that a usually nice teacher got his buttons pushed by a known brat, and sat him in his chair.
The student was known to be a bothersome one, instigating fights and then denying all involvement. It was discussed by the teachers last year to maybe deny him enrollment this year. The student brings up the fact that his dad died when he was 3 years old whenever he gets the chance. His stepfather was apparently a wonderful man but left because the kid was such a brat. The mother doesn't know how to handle him and can't seem to hold it together anymore. Luckily, she's not one of those 'my angels do nothing wrong' moms. She acknowledges the kid is trouble, but can't help it.
That night the student made a Snapchat story, using the teacher's photo on the school website and ranted along the lines of 'THIS TEACHER THINKS IT'S OKAY TO HIT AND ABUSE STUDENTS, SHARE IF YOU AGREE', kind of thing.
And of course, it takes off. They are still looking into how much it was screenshotted and shared, but it was circulating in nearby towns and cities. The school takes the teachers' side, who is now on leave for a while. It's doubtful if he returns or not. The student is permanently expelled from the school. Adequate punishment is still being thought of, as he later admitted that his edgy little rant got out of hand. He 'didn't expect anyone to share it.'
He was being a brat, immediately takes the victim role every chance he gets, and will probably amount to an even bigger brat when he's older."
"I have met some students who were going to get smacked in the face by reality before they made the transition to adulthood.
I teach English as a foreign language in a Scandinavian country. I'm a native English speaker myself. But I had one student who would insist that he knew English better than I did. For example, when talking about the differences in the way English is spoken around the world, I said that a person in London would call the sort of shoes you would wear to run in 'trainers,' while someone in the U.S. would more likely say 'sneakers' or 'tennis shoes.' He 'corrected' me and said 'those words are out of date. Everyone says kicks now.'
In another lesson later in the year, he insisted that the photo of a young American Indian man in the textbook was actually of a Hispanic man, and that I was wrong and the textbook authors were wrong and he just knew these things.
Another student, a vocational student who was hoping to get one of the plum apprenticeships the following year, was habitually late. I reminded him (as other teachers had done before me and continued to do after me) that the companies offering the apprenticeships would be able to see that on his record, and that if this continued, his chances of getting any apprenticeship were slipping away. 'But I'm going to be much better when I'm an apprentice! When they pay me, I'll be on time every day!'
And why should the company believe him? 'Because I'm an honest person, and they should trust me.'"
"I worked at an elementary school for a few years, and there was this kid I swore was a sociopath. He was smart and manipulative, but he also gave me the creeps. He would often find ways to hurt kids by getting other children to do his dirty work. He was so good at spinning this manipulative web of lies, that the children would blame each other, leaving him out of it.
Even when he was caught red-handed (which wasn't often), he would deny it. For whatever reason, the principal had a soft spot for him, so he never got in trouble for anything that he did and the principal saw him as the victim. I won't be surprised in the slightest if I see that kid in the news someday for killing people and\or hurting people in some way."
"My mother is a teacher. One of her students is a hard working girl who is absolutely brilliant. She had a meeting with this girl's parents to discuss moving her into an accelerated course for more of a challenge because she was bored in class and had a ton of potential. She also discussed future universities.
The little girl's parents shut my mother down immediately because 'God wants her to be a wife and mother, she doesn't need any of this.' I'm generally tolerant, but that made me so sad to hear about; she doesn't get to choose what she wants for herself."
"The saddest thing I've ever seen was a student who handed his final exam, signing his first name only on the paper then just sat back defeated for the remaining three hours of the exam. He's now unemployed.
The weird thing is he wasn't a dumb kid; he got good grades when he put in the effort. Most of the time, he didn't want to put in the effort."
"I had a 19-year-old student scream and threaten me because he didn't need to learn how to write a check because paying your bills is optional. His mom told him so, she is a businesswoman, and I'm an idiot. This is the same kid who avoided doing work by moving as slowly as possible and would try to steal things in front of you to see if you had the gall to call him out and deal with a temper tantrum.
The most frustrating thing is that his family was extremely wealthy. He's going to live a joyless life."
"I saw it in my teacher's eyes once. I took all the low-level classes in my final two years to get easy high grades while sleeping through class. Most teachers didn't bother because I was quiet with the occasional rude disenfranchised comment. Then they would be like, 'Oh, you're awake are you?' and moved on.
One time, the top science teacher substituted the class and told me to hang back afterward. Then she sat me down and was like, 'I remember you being brilliant back in the 10th grade. I'd love to understand why you're not trying anymore.'
I explained that I could get higher marks with less effort in these classes and in a year or two nobody would care what level I did, all they'd see is a high grade in maths, English, science, and IT. She went on about it not being results that mattered, then asked, 'What will you do when you actually face a challenge in life?' I responded with 'I don't know. Why do you care?'
When you hit a caring superior with a line like that in a real, face to face conversation, you get a unique facial response. It's like they're falling out of love. She realized in that moment that she wasn't capable of handling the conversation, and (in her mind) there wasn't hope for me to see the world as she did."
"I have students who copy and paste the 'Gilgamesh' Sparknotes summary in order to plagiarize even though I have on the assignment sheet not to do that. I specifically say I know about Sparknotes and our university uses Turnitin as a rule, so I will catch that. Also, the assignment isn't even one that can be answered by copying and pasting Sparknotes - it isn't like it is just saying 'talk about themes in Gilgamesh.'
More generally, some of the apathy and disinterest in learning is disheartening. I always have a few students who seem so completely not curious about the world or learning anything new. They don't want to do work and they don't even want to be there. It isn't just the students' faults though, and I get why that happens sometimes. I would like to reform our entire educational system. Some teachers do not help. I get comments at the end of the semester on evaluations from students who seem stunned that I seem invested in students doing well, and like I care about the class and subject matter. That makes me happy, but sad that I get praised for something I consider the bare minimum of doing my job correctly.
It is complicated though for both students and teachers."
"My mother was teaching third through fifth grade at a small private school and had about 15 kids in her class. One of them, who I will call Diane, wasn't a bad student, but she had no common sense since her mother did everything for her.
This mostly resulted in her not being able to think for herself. If you asked her a question, most of the time she wouldn't answer. But not complex questions. Things like 'what's your dad's name?' or 'what did you have for lunch?' The answer was always 'I don't know.'
At the end of the year, my mother had to switch classrooms to one across the hall, so she got everyone to help her bring her supplies over. She told everyone to pick up one package of unopened construction paper and carry it four steps over into the new room. Ten seconds later, after everyone had brought their paper over, she realized Diane was missing. She sent one of her students back to the old classroom, but she wasn't there. Eventually, though, they heard her coming up the stairs from the basement, without the paper. When my mother asked her where it was, Diane answered: 'I threw it in the garbage'.
Yes, she was given a package of unopened paper and told to carry it across the hall, but instead walked down three flights of stairs and threw it in the recycling bin."
"I worked in an elementary school for a while and spent a couple months of that working as a one-on-one aide for a new kid who was defiant with undiagnosed anger problems. He'd bully the kids who go out of their way to befriend him, the rest of the class resented his interruptions to the classroom. We tried several variations of positive reinforcement strategies but nothing stuck. We couldn't figure him out. He wasn't well liked at school and didn't seem to get a ton of attention at home, but his siblings at another school were normal. My job as an aid was to basically keep him on track and be with him at all time, which he resented. He'd try to get to me through physical threats and comments like, 'I hate you' and 'you'll never be a teacher.' We all wondered what could have happened in his short life to make him this way.
One day, I corrected him on the playground at recess and he went into his pocket and removed a four-inch pointy lockpick, held it up a bit and glared at me. The glares were typical but the event was especially chilling because it showed an escalation in behavior - premeditation, and intent. I reacted firmly and he ran up the playground equipment, and I calmly talked him down, eventually convincing him to show me what he had. I was relieved he did this because it was finally some solid evidence to the administration that I was in over my head. I was emotionally spent. Some days were so bad that I was hoping he'd stab me so I'd have grounds for not working with him anymore, or at the very least, maybe go home early. I told the teacher after recess, and she was nonplussed, didn't tell any superiors, and confiscated the lockpick.
A few days later, I was moved for unrelated reasons. He got a new aid who was instructed to give him more space (I suggested this approach earlier and it was dismissed), and he seemed to be doing a little better. No longer with the school, I hope he got the intervention he needs. If he doesn't, he's going to be one scary adult. If I ever run into him, I hope he doesn't remember me."
"I'm a seventh-grade English teacher and last year I had a student, Mark. When the year started, he was docile and eager to please. However, as the year went on, he became more aggressive and inappropriate. I'm a young woman, and he would frequently stay after class to ask for hugs. I would politely redirect him, but sometimes he would ignore me and I'd have to physically push his hands away. That made me uncomfortable for personal and professional reasons.
Toward the middle of the year, he started 'dating' a girl, Sue, and they had me for the same class period, but they broke up after a few weeks. After Sue broke up with him, Mark became obsessed with her, following her to all of her classes, harassing her on social media and in school. It got to the point where Sue did not feel comfortable coming to my class unless she was sitting right next to me at the front of the room. Sue also came late to my class and would wait until after the tardy bell for the next period rang before she'd leave my class to avoid him. This girl was so scared, she broke down crying when I told her she had to go to her next class because she was so afraid she'd run into him in the hallways.
I emailed our deans and guidance counselors about Mark's harassment and reached out to both Sue's and Mark's parents to let them know what was happening. The school established a no-contact contract between them and things got a little better for Sue, but Marks inappropriate behavior did not end.
A couple weeks later I was out for a doctor appointment when I get an email from the deans at my school saying Mark has been suspended out of school for 10 days. A student only gets 10 days out of school suspension if they're about to be expelled, and I was freaking out thinking that he had done something to Sue.
Sue was fine, but Mark, as a 'prank,' had pulled down the pants and underwear of a kid, Ryan, in front of the entire class. From what my students told me the next day, Mark was laughing and making vulgar, crude comments about Ryan's private parts, making Ryan run crying from the room. Ryan's parents came in that afternoon, saying Mark needed to be charged with harassment
At this point, I'd had enough. I went to the principal directly to write a formal statement detailing Marks escalating pattern of aggressive and inappropriate behavior to ensure his expulsion would go through. I told her and the expulsion committee that I didn't think having Mark at our school was safe for the other students. It was a matter of time before Mark seriously hurt someone. On top of that, he needed professional help, and I thought being expelled would get him that help because he'd have to attend a much stricter charter school
Long story short, the committee decided not to expel him. They said it wasn't in Mark's best interest. He came back to school after serving his suspension.
Flash forward about a month. One day Mark is absent, which is weird because he's never absent. Later I get an email saying he's transferred to another school in our county. I'm wondering what happened to him, so I reach out to his other teachers to see if they know anything.
What happened has Mark had yet another altercation with a student, this time in art class. Mark was 'playing around' with a kid and pushed him into a metal filing cabinet. The back of this kid's head went into the corner of the filing cabinet, right at the base of his skull. We later found out this injury resulted in irreversible brain damage for this kid. He spent the rest of the year being homeschooled and is still in rehabilitation therapy. After this incident, Mark's mom immediately transferred him to another school to avoid his expulsion. To my knowledge, he's never faced any repercussions for what he did.
I was furious. I had said to my principal and argued to the expulsion committee that something like this would happen because Mark had no sense of boundaries and zero regards for other people's feelings. This poor kid's life has been changed forever and I blame their negligence as much as I blame Mark. The writing was on the wall, and the people who had the power to stop Mark ignored it."