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Bad Teacher Memories

A couple of weeks ago, the National Education Association asked people to share their favorite memories of good teachers.

My mom was a public school teacher for 40 years, and a fantastic one at that, but as soon as I read the NEA request, I could only think of some of my worst teachers.

Actually, I had pretty good teachers. My brother had epically awful teachers. He was one of those incredibly bright children who skipped …

  1. iWc

    Teachers tend to be liberal and possess only mediocre intelligence. They usually rely on appeals to authority to win even the simplest discussions.

    It is a recipe for limitless stupidity.

  2. The King Prawn

    Ironically, one of my best and worst teachers was the same woman. Her name was Miss Pruitt. She was maybe 4’8”, in all directions. She taught Algebra I. The problem with her was that she graded all homework assignments. They counted for 50% of the grade. Needless to say, I failed that class miserably with a 54% for the year. (The next Algebra I teacher only graded test, and I finished with a 93%.) But, Miss Pruitt believed in me. After failing every 6 week term for the year, she begged me before the last term to just pass that term and get greater than 90% on the final exam (which I was sure to do because I actually could do the math) so that I would squeak by with a 70% for the year. Her reason: she wanted me in her Algebra II honors class the next year. Something in her reasoning just didn’t add up.

  3. AUMom

    I have one off the chart intelligent child, who was exceptionally well-behaved. I have one with learning disabilities, who was lovely, never a discipline problem, and a girl. Neither got the attention or the education they should have gotten. AUDad and I did a lot of teaching at home. 

    Because our children were not disruptive and we did not get in teachers’ faces, they were shuffled through the system.

  4. KC Mulville

    I was in graduate school when I came across the worst teacher I ever had. A professor had written a book that hadn’t been published (don’t think it ever was), and twice a week, for an hour and a half each class, he came into the room and read his book aloud. It didn’t help that he had a voice that put you to sleep.

    Half the class transferred within the first week … but it was in my major, and it was required. 

  5. Pilli

    Not so much an indictment of one teacher…

    I attended an E. Tennessee public school through 8th grade.  I went to a Catholic high school.  I was two years behind my fellow freshmen and played heck trying to catch up.  My first year on college was essentially a repeat of my last year in high school.

  6. CandE

    My week-long HS physics instructor.  He must have been senile.  His first “test” was for us to use a set of 12 or so sugar cubes to reconstruct the tetris-esque shape that he built.  If it sounds stupid, trust me,  it was worse in person.

    I transferred to AP Biology after that.

    Actually, now that I think about it, the worst was my 6th grade teacher.  Everything came easy to me so I would just coast, until 5th grade when my teacher dropped the hammer on me and taught me to be a dedicated student.  That all went out the window with a vengeance the next year, as my teacher never pushed us to be better or provide challenging work.  It was bad; I never recovered until after high school.

    -E

  7. Foxfier
    The King Prawn:

    After failing every 6 week term for the year, she begged me before the last term to just pass that term and get greater than 90% on the final exam (which I was sure to do because I actually could do the math) so that I would squeak by with a 70% for the year. Her reason: she wanted me in her Algebra II honors class the next year. Something in her reasoning just didn’t add up.

    Makes sense to me, because my worst teacher didn’t have that trait; also a math teacher, but rules only applied when he wanted them to.  (His football players didn’t.)  She could tell you knew the material, but to make the class run she had to require the homework– or those who weren’t already good at it would learn nothing from the class.

    Best line from my worst teacher? “It’s not my job to teach you, it’s your job to learn.”  Copied the problems out of the back of the book, read the paragraph, and sat down for the next hour.  Those of us who could figure it out were required to teach the rest. 

  8. Foxfier

    Worst single instance?

    I finished a year long project in the first quarter, because I thought it was so cool.

    Got an A++, in the teacher’s writing, tons of raving about how great it was.

    She forgot about it by the end of the year and failed me– and when I came in, with the finished project and all that stiff in her writing, she agreed to give me a “special break” and half credit.

  9. jarhead
    C

    I attended junior high school in a rural area of Michigan where the math teacher was a chain smoker who would go out between every class to get his cigarette fix.  He was an adequate teacher when it came to explaining concepts, but anyone who came from a non-smoking home wanted him anywhere near his/her desk because he smelled so badly.  If he leaned over you while you were working on a problem, it was revolting.  So those of us who hated the smell of cigarette smoke learned quickly not to ask questions or raise your hand for assistance when working on problems in class.

  10. tabula rasa

    My great-uncle taught history in my little rural high school (he was on the cusp of retirement) .  At this point, I don’t actually remember what was taught (I think we mostly shot the bull a lot), but I do know that no history was taught.

    In his case, there was nothing ideological about it.  He was just plain lazy and did not want to bother with teaching or grading exams.  He wanted a smooth glide path to actual retirement.  If there was ever a case for testing to assure some teaching is taking place, he is the poster teacher.

    But at least he subscribed to the “first do no harm” rule.  He didn’t cause me to hate history.

  11. CandE
    Foxfier: Worst single instance?

    I finished a year long project in the first quarter, because I thought it was so cool.

    Got an A++, in the teacher’s writing, tons of raving about how great it was.

    She forgot about it by the end of the year and failed me– and when I came in, with the finished project and all that stiff in her writing, she agreed to give me a “special break” and half credit. · 14 minutes ago

    That’s low.

    -E

  12. The King Prawn
    tabula rasa: My great-uncle taught history in my little rural high school (he was on the cusp of retirement) .  At this point, I don’t actually remember what was taught (I think we mostly shot the bull a lot), but I do know that no history was taught.

    In his case, there was nothing ideological about it.  He was just plain lazy and did not want to bother with teaching or grading exams.  He wanted a smooth glide path to actual retirement.  If there was ever a case for testing to assure some teaching is taking place, he is the poster teacher.

    But at least he subscribed to the “first do no harm” rule.  He didn’t cause me to hate history. · in 2 minutes

    In the military we call this the ROAD program: Retired On Active Duty.

  13. Douglas

    I don’t know if she was bad… let’s face it, I was in the 4th grade, and could have skewed memories. But I have a vivid memory of finding a silver penny once (silver colored, I mean), and when I mentioned it in class, I was dismissed as mistaken or fibbing. “There aren’t any silver pennies. Pennies are copper”. When I insisted… even getting a little angry (hey, I saw what I saw), she rushed over and grabbed me in front of the line of students in the hallway and angrily scolded me for “talking back to her”. Years later, I found out that in 1974, the US Mint had indeed coined a silver penny… made from aluminum… for one year only. So, I wasn’t seeing things. That was my “There… are… FOUR lights!” experience with teachers. To this day, nothing pisses me off quite like someone arrogantly insisting that I couldn’t have seen something I’ve seen with my own eyes.

  14. ctlaw

    I had a French teacher who had a thick Boston accent. She insisted that students speak French with such an accent.

    I had several high school English teachers who thought their job entailed reading whatever their favorite literature was (even if not originally in English). Thus, I somehow missed out on the great English and American classics, but had plenty of French and Russian literature in translation.

  15. Mafuta Kizola

    I had a teacher that would show up drunk at classes, give us impossible tests to make us fail on purpose by telling us that we had to memorize 500 pages of outdated technical standards for screws and gear designs for a test. He wanted for us to pay him to get a pass mark or burn our brains trying to get it ourselves.

  16. Douglas
    iWc: Teachers tend to be liberal and possess only mediocre intelligence. They usually rely on appeals to authority to win even the simplest discussions.

    It is a recipe for limitless stupidity. · 1 hour ago

    Edited 1 hour ago

    Education majors tend to have among the lowest ACT/SAT scores. “Those who can’t, teach” is a pretty old expression, so this may have been the reality for quite some time. I think the Education major should be abolished for high school teachers anyway. HS teachers should have a degree in the field they’re teaching in… math, science, business, etc… with a minor that addresses teacher training.

  17. Fricosis Guy

    My brother was the one victimized by the awful teachers. As a quickly maturing alcoholic, I was very good at manipulating the fools. That is, until the Benedictines got ahold of me.

    He has one who was particularly bad: Mrs. S. She was merciless and mocked him openly in class. She told my parents that he had some sort of mental deficiency and should probably go to vo-tech school, though she didn’t think he could handle that.

    Of course, he went to Caltech (and graduated).

  18. Nathaniel Wright

    It has been my experience that teachers in CA teach — as much as they ever do anyway — only up to the point when the students take their standardized tests.  The remaining 4 to 6 weeks of the school year are made up of having students watch LAW and ORDER to see how our criminal justice system works, watching GLADIATOR to learn about ancient Rome (wait that was in the fall and in an AP Humanities class), filling up the time with visitors from volunteer programs like JA, field trips, and complaining that they hadn’t had enough time to teach all the Standards and Content before testing…not that they would use the remaining time to teach what they missed or coordinate with the next grade level to jump start the students.

  19. Joe

    Our high school football coach was the PE instructor, and his class was mandatory for one semester in high school. His formula for boys was simple: football players – A’s; everyone else – B’s. It wasn’t even about sports in general, because I was the best cross-country runner in the school. He was also the American History teacher (you could get A’s in that, thankfully) and would make us spend three weeks on the Kennedy assassination, as it was a hobby of his.

    Worst teacher goes to my high school civics teacher, who in hindsight taught me firsthand how government works. Our assignments were to find magazine articles that were relevant to certain topics, read them, and summarize them. However, he would assign a massive amount, require you to finish them in class, then just give you a check if you did them. I complained to him about it, and he told me to just read the heading and copy the first couple paragraphs, because everyone else does it. I refused to do so, and got a C. It was the only class in school where the good students got the worst grades. Besides PE, of course.

  20. Douglas
    QuickerBrownFox: Our high school football coach was the PE instructor, and his class was mandatory for one semester in high school.

    I had very few bad teachers… bad in the mentally scarring Another Brick In The Wall sense… but I did have quite a few nice teachers that were in over their heads, and coaches were usually at the center of this. Most were friendly, sweet people that had absolutely no background in the classes they were assigned. They were usually coaches assigned to teach geography classes, history classes, etc. I knew more about the subject… even as a teenager… than they did at the time. They did the best they could, but their backgrounds were athletics, so preparing for class usually meant reading the chapter before we did, and then doing their best to lead a class discussion on it. It would be a bit like me being assigned to teach a class on crochet, and being told “just do your best”. I knew a music teacher that had a computer science class tossed in his lap. His classes consisted of letting kids surf the web.

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