Teachers are only human, and like most humans, they have their limits. In the wild west that is the modern classroom, these limits can easily reach their absolute breaking point. After all, with bored kids, stressed educators, limited time, and finite resources, getting through a lesson plan is hardly the perfect recipe for serenity.
So pick up your chalk and take a breather to some wild stories from students who witnessed big teacher meltdowns.
In elementary school, the cool thing to do was put hand sanitizer in excess on your hand and sniff it pretending to get really high. Things escalated to the point of our teacher, at full volume, yelling "Where! Is! The! Hand! SANITIZER!?” A brave soul returned it and the teacher threw it against the wall.
In grade 10 science class, we had to take turns using some lung capacity measuring device. If you breathe into a tube and a small plastic ball gets raised, something gets measured somehow. Anyway, the teacher takes his turn and somehow breaks the measuring device. The teacher goes into a rage, briefly tries to fix it, gives up, picks up a metal garbage can and throws it in anger, storms out of the room and doesn't come back for 10-15 minutes, at which point he acts like nothing happened.
It was more bizarre than anything else.
This particular teacher was bullied and disrespected every single day of the school year. One day, some terrible kid threw a geometry compass and it stuck in the corkboard (like when you do throw a dart) right beside her while she wrote on the board. Instant meltdown, in tears, she left the class and I never saw her again.
Can't blame her, she probably thought her life was in danger at this point. Some schools and neighborhoods are very hard.
The teacher learned that one student cheated on a history essay. After getting this kid suspended for two days (repeat offender), she discovered that almost two-thirds of her class cheated as well. I don’t know what happened after that, but she literally broke down when she found out that my class knew about it (we were in a different subject, so we weren't a part of this "scandal").
This teacher always seemed tough-as-nails, so it was a shock when a kid said she looked like a pit bull (she did have jowls) and she left crying.
Our English teacher was about to switch to another school, and had some important things to do to get ready. When she needed to call someone, she gave us a task and left the room for like five minutes. We had breakfast in the class that day and some of the food was still there. So, the boys decided it was time to throw it around and ended up hitting the window with some butter.
While one boy tried to clean it, someone else threw a trash bag out of the window. Another teacher saw the trash flying by the window of her classroom and came up to yell at us. Of course, this is when the other teacher came back. She immediately started crying, probably because she was angry but also overwhelmed because she liked the school and didn't want to leave (even though we were little jerks).
The next week, she wrote a small poem for us. It was about being too old to throw around trash and play with butter.
The administration slowly forced out my favorite science teacher in high school. One day in class, she stopped teaching and sat down in front of us and told us she had just been diagnosed with MS and began sobbing. The entire class got up and gave her a long group hug. It is one of my most cherished memories from that chapter of my life.
I was a really unorganized kid and having to dig through my desk for stuff wasn't uncommon. One time, in fifth grade, we had this sub going around to collect our homework. When she got to me, I was still digging through my desk, pulling a bunch of stuff out. She got all towering and told me that this was unacceptable. She dumped my desk in front of me and told me I was staying in from recess to organize it.
One girl said, "You can't make him do that" and the sub raised her voice and spit out "YOU don't tell ME what to do, brat. I can do whatever I want!" The whole class revolted, and a neighboring teacher came in to see what was up. The sub claimed I was being lippy and this was my punishment. Then the whole class spoke up and told him what really happened. We were all let out for recess. When we came back, the lunch lady was sitting at the teacher's desk instead.
In high school, I turned in a form to my science teacher a day late. She screamed at me, walked out of the classroom, and was gone for nearly an hour. The class had started and everyone had speculations, blaming me for what happened. The teacher comes back, joyful and smiling, says she just needed a walk around the campus to recover.
The one that sticks out is my history teacher, who was a level 10 incompetent at anything. She usually blathered on through class about stupid things. She was always very well put together, dressed well, hair done. It’s just there was no substance to her teaching. One day, she started talking about a coworker she was very close to when she was young. The story started out innocent enough but pretty soon it veered into this terrible reality.
She and her friend had made plans to meet but when her coworker left work, she got into a horrible car accident and died. When my teacher told us, she was crying, saying how much she missed her, and how crazy life can be. I disliked that teacher but I felt so awful for her. I couldn't have imagined that sort of loneliness at the time, but now, a few decades later, I can sympathize.
My math professor went through a divorce and was fighting for custody of his two young children. You could tell he was irritated because he wore his emotions on his sleeve. One day, he came into class about five minutes late, physically shaking. As he cried, he apologized to us and canceled the class. He had lost the custody fight with his ex-wife.
Our former Latin teacher once slapped a kid across the face because the kid made fun of her dead husband. She got suspended shortly afterward. The teacher got suspended, not the student.
Our English teacher realized about five minutes into discussion that only a few people did the reading. He put his book on the table and goes on a tear about how you can't go through life assuming that other people will pick up your slack, and that it's important to value your education and not just BS your way through. I could tell he was disappointed in the class, and several students were embarrassed for not putting in a little bit of effort to read a freaking book.
Some guy came in late and started talking to his friends. The teacher chimed in with something like, "If you're gonna be late, you might as well not show up at all!" So, he said "Fine, witch" and left. She stared blankly at the door for a good 30 seconds, and then yelled at EVERYONE ELSE in the class for what ONE (now absent) student did. I distinctly remember her claiming at one point that "Everyone in this room is failing this class!"
In high school, our government teacher freaked out on my class. We had a few talkers in the back corner, but they finally broke him. He flipped his podium over and started screaming at us. He called us the worst group of kids he'd ever had to teach and that he was 110% sure that we we'd amount to nothing. Then he went to his desk and drank his entire thermos of coffee.
A few years later, he was having a retirement party at his house (I was close friends with his son). That's when he revealed that the thermos was 80% vodka and 20% coffee.
On the anniversary of 9/11, we were having a moment of silence when the teacher just broke down. She was panting, pulling her hair, and mumbling to herself. She walked over to a coffee pot, picked up a large Ziplock bag of ground coffee, while screaming "I wish this was coke, I need it right now.” She then fell against the wall and slid down.
We got the best long-term sub ever after that.
Junior year of high school, my literature teacher was from Wisconsin and had a very thick midwestern accent. This was in the south, so a number of her intonations were very noticeable. In particular, words with an -ag syllable stuck out (like “bag” would be pronounced like a mixture of “Bay” and “Egg”). She was reading a passage from Beowulf to the class one day, and to paraphrase the modern English translation, came across the following sentence: “Beowulf killed the dragon with the dagger.”
It was too many midwestern syllables too close together for my friend and me to handle tactfully in our 16-year-old mindsets, and involuntarily, we laughed. Upon attempting to cover it up, it probably sounded more like a snicker, and she did not take it well.
I wish I could say that she scolded us, but it was so much worse than that. She shut the book, looked at the floor and straight-up cried these dejected, breathless sobs. Once she had recovered, she picked it back up where she left off, like it hadn’t happened. Even though, generally speaking, I really disliked that teacher, it sucked knowing that our immature reaction caused her to feel ridiculed.
We didn’t have malicious intent, but the result was the same.
A couple of students were arguing across the classroom. One of them thought he'd be clever and tell the other to "go and hang yourself.” Teacher ran out of the room crying, came back in five minutes later screaming at him that her dad had hung himself, called him a horrible boy. She ended up quitting pretty soon after that.
Everyone kind of jumped that one kid after class. He didn't get beaten up, just surrounded by a group of guys his age, mostly friends of his, and got verbally berated for being a little jerk and upsetting the teacher so much. It was unmistakably "the moment" that his peers told him that he was fully out of line.
My IT teacher spent 15 minutes trying to figure out how to turn the volume up for a video. An IT teacher, mind you, someone who teaches in technology didn't know how to turn the volume up. When she finally figured it out, the whole class applauded, and she broke down and left the room.
Admittedly this makes us students look bad, but she was an awful teacher who clearly had no clue about anything in the subject. We didn't like her, so we let her figure it out herself.
In seventh grade, my teacher suffered a tragic infant loss at birth. She comes back from break and it's obvious she's still very, very much affected. Not her usual self at all, not to be unexpected, due to her tragic loss. This one kid, Forrest, is being an absolute jerk, making annoying noises, throwing things, running commentary. The teacher asks him nicely to settle down three times, but he persists.
Finally, she loses her temper and tells him to "Sit down and shut up or be written up!" Forrest responds with, "Maybe if you weren't such a jerk, your baby wouldn’t have died. Must suck to know you're such an awful person your own infant killed itself to escape you." The teacher goes blank and starts shaking. She just...broke down. These horrible harsh sobs.
You could practically see her agony as those tears flowed and her body wracked so hard, I thought she might break in half. She went to the office and we had a sub for the rest of the semester. The teacher ended taking the entire year off to recover and then transferred to a new district. And Forrest remains a jerk to this day. But now he is a police officer.
So, a jerk with power and a gun. Grrrrrrreat.
My social studies teacher was new, taking over for another teacher who mysteriously retired halfway through the year. The kids just went nuts for whatever reason and during one class everyone was being so unruly that he looked like he was going to snap. He left for a minute to cool down and came back to find that a bunch of idiots were now sitting upside down in the chairs.
In a rage, he tried throwing something as hard as he could at the wall. Unfortunately, all he had was...a tissue. Despite all the force of his crazed pitch, the tissue just kinda... fluttered for about a foot. I will never forget the look of impotent rage that swallowed up his face. I think that was when he left the room. Of course, he stuck it out and become one of the best and most influential teachers of my life, so it all turned out okay.
I went to an all-girls private school and the biggest jerk scratched her laptop and wanted a new one, so she threw her current one down a set of stairs. During class. My classroom had the door open, and the teacher was the best but very stern. She got to the hallway to check out the commotion and lost her mind on this girl, who absolutely needed it. Another teacher heard the yelling, came over, and my teacher came back into class to a room full of terrified and confused students because we had all remained in our seats. Carried on class like normal after that. She was a boss. I hope she's doing well.
I was a TA in high school and heard more teacher gossip than most, but I kept it to myself. Short version: a teacher was pregnant by her husband, who had died of a heart attack during the conception. Obviously, this messed with Mrs. V quite a bit. No one brought it up, but somehow, some jerk in her class found out, and when I was TAing in the room next door and heard sobbing in the hall, I signaled Mr. H that I would check it out.
It was Mrs. V. She was a wreck, and all I could do was hug her while she babbled out something about a Chad in her room that had said she'd gotten knocked up somewhere else and killed her husband to cover it up. What. The. Heck.
I went to the next room and berated this kid before sending him to the office, calling the principal before he got there. As a TA, I didn't have much pull, but I was so furious that our crummy principal actually listened. Chad was suspended for 10 days and moved to another class, with the warning that one more word about Mrs. V would cement an expulsion.
She went on leave after that for I think a couple of months. Lots of therapy, according to the teachers that knew I didn't spread their gossip. Thankfully, she returned, and later on gave birth to a healthy boy, whom she named for her husband. The Chad? Expelled before she even got back. Mr. H, my teacher, overheard him running his mouth the first day he was back. Screw that freaking jerk into the bowels of hell for what he did to Mrs. V.
This one teacher was given an entire load of level 1 classes...basically, the complete and total screw-ups who would be dropped out, in prison, pregnant, etc., before they hit 16. Keep in mind that this was middle school. Those kids smelled blood in the water, and it was merciless. Parents didn't care, principals sitting in class, suspensions and detentions did nothing, just merciless. She snapped, like institutionalized snapped. Her contract was not renewed.
Back in kindergarten, our teacher started crying and yelling at us because we wouldn’t behave. She was always a dysfunctional teacher, but she got really angry. In second grade, our teacher got so angry at one kid for making noise that she picked him up by his collar. In sixth grade, our teacher got really upset because there was so much drama between us that there were legit planned fights.
I went to a private Catholic school.
They were shooting spitballs straight in her hair when she wasn't looking. One hit harder, she brushed her hair, grabbed and looked at it and freaked out. Left the class by slamming the door.
In high school, they would do trivia questions after the announcements sometimes, and the first teacher who dialed the office with the correct answer would get a prize for the class. My math teacher really wanted to win and hadn't yet this year. So, one fateful morning, the question goes out, and we had the answer, so he called it in, but we were the second caller.
In a fit of pseudo-rage, he yells "DARN IT!" and kicks this little plastic trash can across the room, where it bonks a kid right in the head. His eyes go wide and he apologizes and asks if the kid is okay, which he is. Everyone got a good laugh afterward, including the kid who got hit, and later, we would pretend to duck whenever we didn't win the morning trivia contests.
I had a history teacher in high school who was always stern and serious, which was great since it gave a reverence to what he was teaching. One day, however, his voice broke and after he cleared his throat, it broke again. He stopped talking, put his hands in his pockets, frowned, and took a few deep breaths. "Students. Sorry about this lecture, my wife and I just decided to get a divorce."
He blankly stared ahead for a second and then walked toward the door, loosening his tie. "I need a drink..." He exited the door. After a second he poked his head back in, "...of water! I'm coming back. Don't think I've forgotten about Napoleon..." Not too much of a meltdown, but he was a pretty manly dude in a nerdy sort of way.
Our freshman English teacher was a small, soft-spoken woman who was kind of known to be a teacher you could walk all over with little (but not no) repercussions. We were in a review session after school and some upperclassmen were just hanging out in the hallways making lots of noise, so she was constantly poking her head out in the hall asking them to be quiet.
As we were all silent reading, the classroom door absolutely SLAMS shut. So hard the latch didn't have time to catch and the door bounced back open. The teacher immediately yells "Oh hell no!", kicks off her heels, and takes off out the door. She caught up with the kid, who had taken a running start and kicked the door shut, and berated him for a good ten minutes.
We heard it all clear as day. It was amazing.
My eighth-grade teacher cussed a kid out for spilling his juice. "EVERY FREAKING DAY YOU DO THIS. CAN YOU PLEASE CLEAN UP MY FLOOR! MY FREAKING GOD! YOUR PARENTS DIDN'T TEACH YOU TO CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF?! WHAT THE HECK. STOP MAKING ME YOUR PERSONAL CLEANUP CREW!" That was followed by a thrown roll of paper towels and a bloody nose. Apparently, she found out her sister had died under the knife that morning.
I was in band. One day, one of the disruptive students was being extra annoying while the director tried to tell us something important. So, after about five different times of going the normal route to get him to settle down, he cracked.
It got quiet and then the director bellowed "ARE YOU STUPID, OR JUST DON'T GIVE A DARN?!, the whole room was quiet, all eyes were now on the disruptive kid who was then trying to hide behind his tuba, then, the director continued with his announcement like nothing happened.
I had a history teacher in high school and for context, you should know that I grew up in the 80s. To this day, I can't quite recall what prompted this, but our teacher stood in front of the entire class, shaking with rage, and said, "I am a homosexual." We were all just dumbfounded. Not that he was gay, I think most of us had figured that out already, but that he felt obligated to make that announcement.
My super dorky history teacher in eighth grade was the nicest teacher I've ever met, but there were a couple "class clowns" that he could struggle with. Usually, he dealt with them ok but one day they were so obnoxious that he snapped, yelling, and chucking his stapler across the room. He nailed a staple right into Ben Franklin’s forehead. He immediately apologized and went about his day normally, while all the students went silent. Nobody ever bothered him again after that.
I had a chemistry class that was held in a huge auditorium with really steep stairs. The professor always walked all around the room while we took quizzes and tests. One day, he tripped halfway up the stairs and took one heck of a fall. He landed facedown—unhurt apart from bruises—on the floor and before we could really react, he starts banging his fists and screaming, "ENTROPY, ENTROPY, ENTROPY!"
This was in high school. We had a band teacher. His nickname was Pinky because he had very red hair and pale skin with a pink tint. Borderline albino. Every time he got mad, his entire face turned tomato red.
I don't remember the sequence of events, but he was already frustrated. Everyone in the room knew to shut up so that we didn't cheese him off. Well, everyone except this one dippy girl. She asked something along the lines of "are you mad" and kept pestering him. He finally snapped. His face turned that familiar shade of tomato red and he threw the pencil he was using to conduct across the room. He then stormed out and slammed the door hard enough that it could be heard on the other side of the building.
He quit soon after.
In ninth grade, our teacher was off sick so a young substitute teacher came in. She was lovely, kind, friendly, although a bit timid and shy. One girl in our class used a fountain pen to flick ink on her skirt one day. The poor woman noticed her do it, didn't say a word, and just went to her desk, put her head in her hands, and sobbed.
After 10 minutes, we went to get another teacher. The sub was escorted out, still crying and was seen for the rest of the day just crying in her car.
Our eighth-grade math teacher was well known for his short temper, but this day was particularly bad. There was a kid in my class, Justin, who never listened and never did his homework. One day, the teacher just had it. He grabbed Justin's desk (with him in it) and picked it up and slammed it back down on the ground a few times. After that, he shoved the desk (and Justin) across the room. Justin was fine, thankfully. Math teacher just stormed out.
Told my mom and I guess a few other parents called the school about it too. He was gone for a few weeks and had to take anger management classes. I just went by my old middle school a few weeks ago and he's the assistant principal now. Who would have expected that?
A few years ago, I took a class in design theory where we learned the design principles behind everything, from common household objects to room layouts to entire organizations. It was an absolutely brutal class, but uniquely informative. One day, towards the end of the semester, we went over the use of humor in design.
The professor spent the entire class talking about how laughter and amusement can be used to engage an audience and change how people see a situation. The whole time, he was laughing, cracking jokes (and good ones, too), and generally making sure the class had a good time. At the end of the lesson, he told us not to underestimate the power of laughter; after all, it was how he had gotten through the lecture that day.
His father had died a couple of days prior. He broke down crying after he told us. It's probably the most impactful lecture I've ever attended.
Our physics teacher came into class late, walked past the podium, and promptly into the chalkboard. Like, he would have kept walking if it wasn't there. He then picked up one of those plastic pen things that you put chalk in, proceeded to try and write on the chalkboard even though the pen was empty, all the while mumbling incoherently. When we learned what was going on, it was even stranger than we could have imagined. He'd had a stroke and managed to drive himself to the university.
He didn't return to teaching that year and as best I recall he ended up retiring due to health complications. He was in his 60s and along with the stroke he had fallen and hit his head. Online searching shows he passed away about eight years later.
My eighth-grade Spanish teacher and the freshman baseball coach were having an affair. It eventually became public knowledge, and she had several breakdowns as her divorce played out over the year. But it got worse. I had the pleasure of joining the freshman baseball team the next year and experiencing the coach's own share of breakdowns from his own divorce.
Our teacher was a nice guy, but a rather large fella with some personal issues. One day in the middle of class, he just stopped giving a lecture and somehow became stricken with the idea that he was Jesus. He left the classroom and stood in the hallway, picking students to bless. He'd walk up, bless a student, and then walk away, all the while preaching loudly that he was Christ.
That's when one of the students wasn't receptive to his "blessing" and swatted at his hand. Mistake.
The teacher grabbed him by the throat and dragged him down the hallway, promising to personally carry him into hell. Another teacher tried to talk him down, but it didn't work. The police arrived quickly enough and no one was hurt. Everyone assumed that the guy got fired, but the next year, he was back! I figured I'd take my chances. One day at lunch, I just asked him point-blank what happened.
Apparently, he was on some kind of psych medicine, ran out, and forgot to refill them before hitting empty. His pharmacy was out of that particular medicine and told him it would be five days before they got it in. He thought he'd be fine. Nope.
This one "cool" guy, let’s call him Davey, tormented our English teacher for no reason. She was very sweet and passionate about her job, but this guy was a JERK. The day that caused the breakdown, he stole the remote for the TV. Her class was during the daily announcements, so the TV was always used. When she couldn't find the remote, she had to stand on her tip toes to press the right buttons.
When the TV turns off, the teacher goes to turn it on again. A minute later, it turns off again. She jokes, "Okay is someone playing a prank on me?" No one says anything. But Davey keeps going until she snaps and, being immature ninth graders, we all snicker. That's when she unloads about how she's having a tough time lately, ranting about her personal life.
But Davey doesn't care. He turns on the TV and starts channel surfing. The teacher lets out an animalistic yell and bursts into tears. Cue the entire class with shocked Pikachu face. She runs out for like 20 minutes until she comes back with this tough as nails teacher who literally pulls Davey out of his desk by his shirt collar. His feet dangle off of the ground, his whole arm shakes as he takes the remote out of his pocket and showed it. I loved every second of it.
My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.
Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.
Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.
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