Anything can happen during a parent-teacher interview. Everything a student has ever done in class is laid out in the open for his or her parents, putting that "good boy" or "good girl" image at risk. Here are some of the most unforgettable parent-teacher interviews ever:
1. Pulling On My Heart Strings
It was my first year teaching at an elementary school. A dad showed up with his son. This boy was a little shy in class, but he was very bright and responsible. He had started a year below his grade level and had worked hard to get on track. The dad had obviously been drinking as he was weaving and slurring his words. I called the office to have someone come down.
We escorted him to the office and had him wait. He ended up getting sick in the trash can. I remember the look of embarrassment, anger, and sadness on the son's face. I had other conferences scheduled so I couldn't stay long, but the authorities had to be called by the administration. That's not even the worst part, either.
The next day, the son came in and said he was sorry. I told him I was proud of him and that I was sorry his dad was sick. That seemed to cheer him up a little. I sent home the progress report and great examples of his class work. I did try to reschedule but it never happened. What really broke my heart was when the student asked me if he could come home with me during the holidays.
I told him that his family would miss him too much, and he said, "No they won't". He moved schools the following year.
2. You’re Grounded!
In my first year of teaching, I had a mother who pretty much ignored everything I was saying and assumed it was all bad. I opened with “Hey, your daughter has shown some excellent work in class this semester". Her reply took me aback: “I doubt that. She can't do anything!” When I tried to assure her that she had, in fact, done well with proof, she dismissed it and said she will never be as good as her siblings.
I then offered some advice on how she could improve her already decent grade and the mother replied, “That's it—I'll ground her for a month!” From that point on everything I said she literally added another month to her daughter's “grounding time". I ended up just finishing the meeting quickly as possible to try and save the daughter from spending the rest of her life grounded!
3. Language Barriers
I called the parents because their 8th-grade student was making fun of another student. The student being bullied was confined to a wheelchair and I observed the mean kid throwing gum at him during class. The kid’s dad came in but only spoke Spanish. Cape Verdean's math teacher said he knew enough Spanish to translate, so we began meeting with the math teacher, myself, the father of the mean kid, and the mean kid himself.
The father said something in Spanish, and then the math teacher replied: "What he is saying is that he admires your passion and..." But the mean kid interrupted and said, "That's not what he's saying, he said you’re a liar!" Suddenly, the father's tone turned unpleasant, and we all braced ourselves. He ended up angrily telling me something in Spanish before getting up, nearly flipping the table.
I asked the math teacher what he just said. He told me he didn't know.
4. Don’t Bite Your Thumb
I was teaching a very low-ability group about Romeo and Juliet, and how “I shall bite my thumb at them” was an insulting thing to do. One of the children didn't understand what an insult was, and I, not thinking, said, “It's when you say something mean about someone, for example, if I said your mom smelled, then that would be an insult".
Unfortunately, the child really took this to heart and left the room in anger. I caught up with him and apologized, and let him know it was only an example and not me trying to be mean, and he seemed to accept that. However, the next day, his dad came in, and he was fuming. He was furious that I had been insulting his wife in my lessons, and he was out for blood.
I made the same point that it was only an example and I wasn't implying anything about his wife...but his response was, “I don't care! How do you know my wife doesn't smell?” At that point, it took every ounce of control I had to keep a straight face, and the rest of the conversation is a vague memory. I eventually managed to pacify him, but I will never forget that meeting as long as I live.
5. Judging Books by Their Covers
I had a parent meeting with the father of one of my students. He was well known for being from the rough side of town. I knew this and I was quite nervous since I didn't know what to expect. He came in covered in head-to-toe tattoos (many tears tattooed on his face from being in prison) and he looked pretty intimidating. Never did I expect him to take me by surprise.
I kept on my "teacher smile" and treated him as I would have treated any of my student's parents. We actually ended up having a great meeting and I was thankful he had a really good kid, so I didn't have any bad news to share. He ended up being one of my most helpful parents and attended every school event and parent meeting we had that year.
I ended up having all three of his kids throughout my years of teaching kindergarten and he was always so respectful and even helped me change my tire one day in the parking lot when I had a flat. It was so memorable because I not only learned to "not judge a book by its cover”, but he also asked me to give him advice on parenting and keeping his kids on the right track so that they didn't end up like him (his words).
I think he just needed someone to listen to him and hear him out. Two of his kids are in high school now and in AP classes and doing amazing with plans to attend college. The youngest is in middle school and well on her way to success as well. That one parent meeting taught me a lot about people and myself as a teacher. I'll never forget it.
6. Stay Positive
I had a parent-teacher interview years ago where the father sprung on his sixth grade daughter that he'd be going to court to send her back to foster care. The dude had spent years trying to get custody of his daughter who'd been in foster care (since the mom was locked up for a variety of offenses), so the daughter was quite shocked to hear that from her dad.
While the dad's court battle to get custody of his daughter went on, he remarried, and when he finally got custody, things were instantly horrible between his daughter and her step-mom. At the conference, every positive thing I said was turned on its ear by dad. "Okay, so you've improved in math, but you still won't listen to anything your step-mom says".
After a few of those types of statements, while my panic was rising, the dad finally said to his daughter, "I won't let you tear my family apart. That's why I'm going to ask the judge in June to put you back in foster care". I was absolutely stunned. So was his daughter, who went in a split second from being a bit fiery about dad's criticisms to sitting completely deflated.
I tried some sort of lame way to spin it. "Well, you improved so much in the past few months. Let's talk a bit about why you improved so that we can hold on to those positive things no matter what happens down the road". But really I had nothing. I was pretty much the only one who talked after that, trying to say positive things.
But there was no way to turn it around, so I said thanks for coming and ended the conference. That was in the third to last week of the school year. She didn't show up for the last week and she never came back to our school. I've always wondered what happened after that. I hope she's okay.
7. Nobody Puts A Teacher In A Corner
A parent once popped by to "chat" with me. I think it was during lunchtime or something because I was alone in my room. He was concerned that his son was failing. I was explaining what assignments the kid was missing, and dad started getting very heated. Not angry, per se, but agitated and loud. The louder he got, the more physical were his gestures.
Since I hadn't been expecting him, I was loading some stuff into a closet in my room when he showed up, and pretty soon he had me boxed into the closet, speaking sternly (not exactly yelling), and shaking his finger in my face. I am not a small woman at six feet tall, but he was bigger than me, angry, and in my space. He was actively preventing me from leaving.
I was flustered enough that I couldn't really think clearly enough to take back control of the situation. I can't say that I specifically was fearing for my safety, but I was sort of in that deer-in-the-headlights mode, where I could see oncoming disaster but couldn't move out of the way. And I was right—disaster did strike. This happened during school hours, so another student walked in, saw what was happening, turned around, and booked it.
At first, I thought he thought the situation looked inappropriate and I was having some sort of assignment in my classroom during school (goodbye career), but he actually went and got other staff. They interrupted the incident, and the dad stepped back. As soon as he took a step back, I think he realized what he'd been doing and how his behavior was pretty scary.
As I said, I don't think he was mad at me specifically, just the situation, and all he wanted was the best for his (special needs) son. It was pretty clear that, once he took a literal step back from the situation, he was pretty appalled at himself. I didn't hear from him again, and the kid transferred out a couple of months later.
8. Monkey See, Monkey Do
I just provide childcare at a school after school hours, but I had to tell a mother that her junior kindergartener had gotten so mad that she made a bone-chilling declaration to the class: "I'm going to go out and get a weapon and hurt everyone!" The kid was mad because her older sister (a kindergartener, one year older) had been taunting her in really subtle and creative ways, like complimenting everyone else but not her.
The little one had also copied the weapon thing from her big sister, who had said that before because she liked to say things like that and laugh. The mom's face just fell when she realized I was talking about the little one. They are both unbelievably intelligent and articulate, but the little one hadn't ever behaved like that before.
9. High Expectations
I had the parents of a severely autistic student ask about his progress in a normal way. Where was he improving? Where did he need more help at home? Where did I see him by the end of the course? Everything was really relevant to my preparations. Then things started taking a turn. They started talking about their long-term expectations. They mentioned med school and how they wanted him to be a doctor and support the family.
Unachievable goals are surprisingly common in parents of special needs kids, but they're usually more focused on an impossible level of independence. They usually come to terms with it by the time their kids are in their late teens. Our child will always need somebody there. This kid was in his 20s and lacked the ability to communicate his most basic needs due to only having the barest vocabulary.
We're talking about somebody who knows "yes”, "no”, "mom”, "dad”, "bathroom”, and the names of his favorite toys. His high school diploma was the ultimate token diploma. Any college advisor would look at the curriculum and recognize he didn't even have the equivalent of a kindergarten education when working independently.
His parents were in the worst kind of denial. I believe it was cultural. They were both physicians from India with multiple degrees. The father spoke seven languages fluently. Yet even these brilliant parents were blinded by their cultural expectation that their son would support them. They knew autism wasn't a phase, but they refused to accept it as anything else.
Their son will be lucky (and I mean very lucky) if he can even manage to get a job in a sheltered workshop. It would take thousands of hours of training just to get him to complete a two-step assembly task independently one time. Getting him to do it throughout a four-hour shift without constant assistance could take decades.
I saw all this in their future as they went on, describing medical studies. At one point, they made a truly concerning statement: "He's so detail oriented, we think he would be best as a surgeon". I just sat there, maintaining my composure by sheer bafflement more than resolve, and I was sad. I've tracked his progress with them over the years, and he's now in a work placement program, which is not going well.
The mother was slowly coming to reality, but the father still believed in the impossible. I get Christmas cards from them every year, and we do coffee once a month. They force gifts on me and are interested in my work and the types of breakthroughs I've had with other students. It's a parent-teacher meeting that will probably never end.
Their son comes along all the time and sometimes he seems to recognize me. He asks for the "broom hen", which is what he always referred to as his favorite "blue marker". His parents' eyes will light up when he does this. He's no surgeon and he was a horrible student, but years later I think I can see why the simplest successes, like remembering who gave him his "broom hen”, can make a parent lose all perspective.
10. More Homework, Please
I got stranded during my student teaching and I had to go through a night of conferences without my mentor teacher. An older Bosnian woman came in and immediately started ripping into me. Her accusations made my blood boil—according to her, he never had any homework, so I must have not been assigning anything to him because I didn't want to have to work myself.
It took everything I had in me to not let her know that he was in a compressed course and that he wasn't one of the high achievers. I did in fact assign homework; he just pretended he did it but never did. At a certain point, I think it is up to the parent to ask, "Do you have homework to do”, and not up to the teacher to walk the student through their responsibilities when outside of school.
But instead, I told her that I would talk to him in the morning and see if we could work out an extra credit system to work on his grade.
11. Needs Some Help
We had a meeting with a mom of a student who was diagnosed with severe ADHD. He couldn't sit in a chair for more than three seconds. We asked her why he wasn't medicated since he struggled so severely, and it really hurt his own academics. She broke down crying, telling us that she had been through some trauma and had been institutionalized. The details of her account were truly troubling.
She then shared with us that while in the state institution they "treated her like a guinea pig" and tested her on everything under the sun, resulting in her being in a zombie-like state. This student's dad is locked up for life, so they were under the care of CPS at the time. So, because of the zombie-like issue with how the institution medicated her, she said she will never medicate her son.
He runs wild through the school, often hurting other children, and we can't do anything.
12. Just Listen
I have a friend that is a para-educator. Basically, she assists disabled students in a K-12 setting. Currently, she works with half a dozen deaf boys in middle school and assists their interpreter. She came to me in tears one day because she had just sat through a parent/teacher conference with the interpreter for one of the boys.
His father absolutely refuses to accept that his son is deaf because he can hear very loud sounds. He spent the entire meeting yelling at the teacher for “wasting the district's money with a fake interpreter” because he KNEW his son was faking because "just watch", and proceeded to throw several books on the floor, which his son reacted to. His next statement shook me.
"See? He's just doing this for attention, he's been doing this for years and he just needs to suck it up and start being a man". He refused to listen to the teacher, the interpreter with several years of experience, or the district representative who had the audiologist tests showing his kid has been deaf since he was two.
13. Practice Makes Perfect
Guitar teacher here. I had been teaching this kid, 10 or 11 years old, for about three months and he wasn't doing any practice outside of my studio. I had to reteach him how to hold the guitar at virtually every lesson. Every week would be the same speech: "You have to practice every day, even just a little bit," blah blah blah.
I never saw the parents as they would just wait outside in the parking lot. One day, the kid's father came in and marched straight at me, clearly angry. He got right in my face, pointing and barking: "I've been paying good money for these lessons and my kid hasn't learned a thing, what exactly are you teaching him?" Calmly and quietly I said, "Well, for one thing, to practice every day".
The father's face dropped to the floor. He looked at his kid, then back at me. "He's supposed to practice every day?" "Yes, for at least half an hour". He looked back at the kid and then started to get huffy again. "Well, what's he supposed to practice?" I looked at the kid and said, "Get out your music and show your dad".
The kid, realizing he was caught, just silently opened his bag and pulled out the large stack of music he'd been given, never once looking at me or his father. I thought the father was going to pop right then from embarrassment, either because he was too stupid to realize that you can't learn an instrument in half an hour per week or that his kid lied to him and put him in this situation.
They never returned, which was fine since they were wasting my time anyway. I've had similar run-ins with parents, almost always for the same reasons, but never that aggressive. Please remember, if you're putting your kids into music lessons, they have to devote some time to it every day if you want them to get better.
14. Natural Artist
I am a former teacher. I still work with youth, so I see an awful lot of parents, good and bad. When I was a teacher, a few years ago, the school was holding parent-teacher conferences. Mind you, this was middle school, so we held conferences with our advising groups and had a folder of work that we had compiled from other teachers.
So I start going through this folder of work. One student was a quiet kid who struggled with staying focused and daydreamed a lot, but he was not a bad kid or anything. We got to a science test where he missed several points because of silly mistakes, and the dad took the time to go through each problem he missed and rework the problems with his son.
I thought to myself, "Wow. Here's a parent who is really invested in his son's education. You go, Dad!" And then it happened. He flipped to the next paper, which was some daily assignment from language arts. The assignment was done and everything. He had gotten something like an 85% on it, but this paper had some remarkably intricate doodles on it. They were actually really beautiful.
The dad saw this paper and without a moment's hesitation, he backhanded his son. It was hard enough that the kid got a bloody nose. The father proceeded to scream at him about how his "stupid drawings" were distracting him from learning, and how if he ever saw him drawing again, he'd be punished. He just kept flipping out and berating him.
I tried calming him down by saying that maybe enrolling him in the art class would give him an outlet for his talent and that it wouldn't distract him so much. That's when the dad got up in MY face. Like, we were almost nose to nose. He started screaming, saying I was stupid and didn’t know anything about raising children.
I was speechless. I was a first-year teacher and I hadn't had anything like that happen before. So I grabbed the bleeding, crying kid's hand and took him to the office. The dad tried to yank me back into the room. In the scariest teacher voice, I could muster, I said that if he laid a hand on me or the kid again, he would leave this building in handcuffs.
I brought the kid to the office, had the secretary call the authorities, and made my first ever report to DCFS (because, you know, he had hurt his kid in front of a mandated reporter).
15. Letting Off Some Steam
A former preschool teacher here. Parent-teacher meetings always stressed me out, and more often than not they took up the entire week. After a particularly challenging mid-week, I decided to blow off some steam and hit up a dance club I frequent on occasion. So I was basically dressed provocatively, and I was drinking and grinding all over the guys there. It seemed like harmless fun, but I was so wrong.
One guy, in particular, caught my eye and we ended up making out pretty heavily. We talked and I eventually invited him back to my place. He was a real stand-up guy—he explained that he would love to, but that he was in an open marriage. While his wife was cool with him having dates and girlfriends, he was not looking to replace her or get involved.
We still talked well into the evening and parted on good terms. Fast-forward the next evening to the parent-teacher conference for one of the newer girls in my class. I'd met the mom several times during drop-off but when the guy whose tongue I'd had down my throat not 24 hours before walked in, I nearly lost it.
What followed was the most awkward parent-teacher meeting I'd ever had. Coming face-to-face with a dad who knows I secretly like to be tied up haunted me for a long time.
16. Not a Matchmaker
My worst parent-teacher interview was probably the time one of the fathers complained for 20 minutes about how his love life was going down the drain. He went on about how he has tried everything from Match to eHarmony to OkCupid and beyond. He then proceeded to look me dead in the eyes and tell me that he needs a woman that his daughter loves. But the clincher? He said that I fit those qualifications.
I just laughed and said something along the lines of, "Oh whoops, I'm a little too young for you!" He's over 50, I'm 22. He continued to stare, licked his lips, and left a couple of moments later. Yuck.
17. Predicting the Future
My wife was a new, timid, and fresh-out-of-college teacher in an elementary school in rural, western New York state. The night came along when teachers met with parents whose kids were having problems or had issues. The last meeting of the night involved the parents of a third-grade boy. The parents came in and sat down.
The woman clutched her purse, stared at her shoes, and remained quiet. The husband was nearly obese and smelled like he had been drinking. When my wife told them that their son was acting inappropriately at school—engaging in infant-like behavior such as curling up on the floor and trying to get attention with loud baby talk and such—the husband exploded. He accused my wife of being mean-spirited and ignorant.
My wife backed off and the meeting was over—but her nightmare didn't end there. The three of them walked out the school's front door together. When the door closed shut behind them and locked tight, my wife realized they had been the only ones in the building. The parking lot was empty except for their two cars. In the frigid and dark air, they quietly got into their cars and drove away.
All the way home, my wife had these persistent thoughts: these people are messed up—really messed up. Fast forward six months. My wife was watching the evening news and there was a story about a man who hurt his kids' babysitter. The video showed a man being pulled from his front door in handcuffs and shoved into a car.
It was the guy from the parent-teacher meeting. In the background, the third-grade boy was peeking through the doorway with round eyes and a look of fear.
18. Just Ask First
Several years ago, I was teaching a graduate-level statistics course, and a 27-year-old's parents wanted to talk to me about his progress. I had ZERO interest in meeting them, but my dean insisted, despite all my hiding and protesting. So I met his mom, and she spent the entire meeting asking me in-depth questions about the past assignments and the final. She also took copious notes.
But here's the weird part—she never asked a thing about her son. Her child was 27, allegedly a "grown adult". Why was she meeting with me? In the end, she actually asked, "How do I get an A?" I let her know she wasn't enrolled in the course, therefore could not earn a grade and I excused myself. I met with the student after the next class and asked him pointed questions about the last assignment he handed in.
Was she doing his work? I had so many questions. It was clear he understood the material and was deeply embarrassed his mom met with me. He apologized profusely. Clearly, something was going on. The day the finals were due, what happened? The mom emailed me her final and asked me to grade it for her. Her son also sent me a final in the drop box. Very different analyses.
Suddenly, I realized she'd been ghost auditing the course. She scored higher on the final than her son. I graded it out of curiosity for myself. If she had been open and said, "Hey this is really interesting to me, can I audit?" I might have played along. But she'll never know.
19. Follow Your Dreams
Before I tell this story, please keep in mind that “special ed'' is a term that has grown to cover a much broader range of students. I had a meeting with a counselor, a special ed student, and his mother. During the entire meeting, the mother kept making comments about how he could never be as successful as his brother and how his interest in game design was laughable because "it's not a real job". Her statement made me furious.
My degree is in video game design and 3D animation. This student that normally couldn't stop talking to me about his new game ideas just sat there hanging his head and trying to not break down in front of everyone. I wanted to stop the meeting, but the rules wouldn't allow it. I spend every day reading over this student's new ideas for games. He isn't the best at spelling, but I want to be the one person that supports his dream.
20. Parent/Teacher Bonding
I was meeting with a parent that spoke mostly Spanish (in the US). My Spanish is weak—I can understand much more than I can speak. I was nervous, but things quickly got better—turns out, her English was about at the same level as my Spanish. I spoke in English with a little Spanish, and she spoke in Spanish with a little English. When we couldn't get across an idea, we reverted to charades or I grabbed the paper and we drew things out.
By the end, we were laughing so hard and leaning on each other. Thankfully her daughter was doing okay, mom just wanted advice on how to keep supporting her. By far my favorite parent conference ever.
21. Bad Comparison
My sister taught for a couple of years at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She had students who would complain that she gave homework over the weekend because it interfered with their snowboarding schedules. But the final straw for them was when she got engaged and showed her ring to her class. Apparently, one of her students, denied the ability to marry because he was gay, complained to the department head. My sister was officially reprimanded for no reason.
22. It’s Just Paper!
This kid Kevin was really great in just about every way, but I had terrible classroom management skills, so he inevitably joined in with the other bad kids and threw a ball of paper across the room. I mentioned the paper ball-throwing in a conversation with his parents a few days later, who came in immediately.
The dad was some kind of muscle-bound Jesus freak. They hadn't told Kevin they were coming, and Kevin was really surprised when all of a sudden his dad was there in my classroom pushing him against a wall, screaming in his face, demanding he apologized to me and generally looking like he was about to beat him up. Kevin burst into tears and apologized to me as if he was begging for his life—but that just made his dad even angrier.
I found myself awkwardly over-accepting his apology and trying to explain to his parents that throwing paper balls really wasn't a big deal, that everyone did it, and that sometimes even I enjoyed throwing a ball of paper. Needless to say, I have been much more careful about calling home when good kids commit minor transgressions.
23. Take Care of Your Things
So I have a class of 30 first graders and many of my students with behavioral problems. Anyhow, my plate is quite full, to begin with, so when a particular student comes to me at the end of the day to tell me she's lost a toy of hers, I started feeling the pressure. I mentioned that I'd keep my eyes peeled for it, but also that she should watch out for her belongings and not take things to school that she would miss if they were lost.
Well, that was a mistake. You see, her mother is not only a teacher as well but a teacher in my school. When her daughter went up to her crying, she evidently told her mother that I didn't do anything to help her. Her mother came right down to me and asked what happened. There I was, waiting with 29 kids trying to leave at the end of the day, explaining that she should not come to school with personal items because they could get lost.
Well, she asked me to continue our conversation after I dismissed my students. I came back in after doing so to find her complaining about the incident to the administration. I called her over to my room to discuss it in private. Long story short, she spent, quite literally, over an hour shouting at me, saying I have no compassion and that I'm a horrible teacher. She took it even further than that, saying that the least I could have done was replace the lost item with something else.
Because you see, that makes sense, to replace every item lost by a first grader. Sorry, I'm not the mother. This is how life lessons come about. You can coddle your child all day long, but in my classroom, I'm kind and caring but truthful and honest and you need to be responsible for your own stuff.
24. How the Chairs Have Turned
My brother had gotten into trouble for going to his locker between classes one time too many, so my parents got invited in for a chat with the teacher team. The chat involved six teachers with their chairs arranged in a half-circle around two chairs where the parents were supposed to sit. Well, my dad was having NONE of that, having been a teacher for decades.
He walked in, grabbed one of the "parents on trial" chairs, turned it backward in front of the teacher who'd been accusing my brother, and then sat in it with his face about 10 inches away from her nose. They had the whole meeting that way. The meeting was over pretty quickly, and my brother was never in trouble for going to his locker between classes again.
Who Are You?
We have a half-day where parents sign up for conferences and teachers hang around until eight with a break. I was catching up on work in my classroom and eating a sandwich during my break, and this mom comes in wearing some pink yoga pants and a big parka. She looks frazzled and immediately starts going on about how she is sorry for her daughter, how she doesn't do anything at home, and basically going on about how bad her kid is. That was bad enough, but then she kept going on and on...
And I'm just not saying anything, just listening. Then she starts going on about the curriculum, how it's inadequate, and so on. But it's nothing substantial or pointed, she's just complaining about her kid, and the school, and whatever else more like I were some sort of therapist than her kid's teacher. She's going on about the math curriculum and my next conference shows up at their scheduled time.
The lady goes, "Sorry, thank you for taking the time”, and leaves. I didn't say a word the whole time. I have no idea who she was. I have no idea who her kid was. It was really bizarre.
26. Cultural Differences
In my first year of teaching, I had a conference with an Indian family about their daughter. I told the parents that she was a very bright kid, but that I would love her to talk a little more in class because she was very quiet (not an unusual request at all). The father got very quiet, leaned forward, and pointed his finger in my face. It was about to go down.
He said, "That's how my daughter should be. That's how Indian girls should be. She's a girl and she needs to stay quiet". I backed off immediately. The joke's on him, though. Now, 12 years later, I'm friends with this girl on Facebook and she's an outgoing, friendly, talkative young woman. I've never had another Indian father say something like that to me since, but I'll also never forget that meeting.
27. The Origin of Man
When I was a kid, I was in a sort of open house event for parents to meet the faculty, see the school facilities, etc. Now, this was a Catholic school in New Jersey, so it's fairly religious, but it's also an educational learning center. To no surprise, our biology classroom has one of those Darwinian pictures of evolution, where it goes from apes to several varieties of cavemen, to humans.
Well, one parent decided that was NOT okay. Her reaction was just childish—she just swiped at the wall, tearing the poster down in front of the entire room and the teacher. The teacher and the parent got into it almost imeediately—the teacher was trying to keep the conversation about the destruction of his property, and the parent was yelling about how his son was going to be subjected to "the devil's learning".
At the time, I didn't even know these people existed. Well, the parent shoved the teacher back and before he could even retaliate, my father (tall, fairly lean but muscular) grabbed the guy by his shirt and said, "Cut it out, or you're outta here!" Unfortunately, that was enough to get not only the other parent and his son ejected, but also get my father and me ejected from the meeting.
I didn't stay at that school long, but from that day onward, half of my teachers were convinced my father was some kind of terrible guy.
28. I Would Like to Thank…
I gave one of my students an award one year for being the kid who just made my day. I loved teaching him. He was bright, sweet, and eager to learn, and even though he had some discipline issues and was a knucklehead in other classes, he was always terrific for me. I saw him and his mom at the ceremony. She marched him right up to me and said, "Why'd you give him this award? He doesn't deserve it". That shocked me enough, but she didn't stop there.
She spent the next 10 minutes lecturing me on how much of a bad he was, how worthless he was, and how he must have really pulled one over on me if I thought otherwise. I've never wanted to adopt a child so badly in my life. I cried on the drive home, and I think about him constantly. I hope he got away from her.
29. Don’t Take Things for Granted
My mom teaches at a title-one elementary school. For those of you who don't know, it's a school for really low-income families. She had conferences recently and told me about this one family. It made us all here at our house feel terrible. Now, the school tries to do things on the internet for the kids and this one kid didn't have a computer.
Or a phone. Or internet. Or more than 2 pairs of clothes. A dad. Or a house. This family of four kids and one mother working three jobs lived in their van just down the street from the school. And their wish was to save enough money from lunch to go out and get a dwarf tree for Christmas in their van. This story made me feel so bad. I feel very lucky and also like a terrible person for taking these things for granted.
30. Bottling It Up
I've been working with a student for two years now. He is the best kid you could ever want—he's honest, works hard, and he cares for others, but there is a look in his eye that just seems off. You can see anger there but the most he's ever let it show at school is basically along the lines of "I don't like that, please stop".
When he gets home, however, he is seriously one of the most troubled kids ever. He's hurt his dad, literally to the point his dad has had to go to the ER. He's woken his mom up by humping her in the middle of the night. He chokes his younger sister daily; throwing her down the stairs even. He grabbed the steering wheel and tried to yank his family off the road while they were on the road.
Meeting with his parents is one of the hardest things to do, and we do it often. My heart breaks every time. A summary of how our meetings go: "Basically, your son is so well-programmed that he stores up all his anger from a day at school and he unleashes it when he gets home from school. But he behaves so well at school that I have no legal grounds to help you at home without making my school district or myself financially responsible for his therapy. So, sorry about your luck”.
31. A Haunting Story
At one of my parent-teacher meetings for a middle school boy, he mentioned he was tired often and was unable to concentrate. I asked him when he went to sleep and it was a reasonable time. He sort of mumbled something, and his parents said something to him in Spanish. I asked what it was, and finally, the boy revealed the peculiar truth—he told me that they have a ghost at their house.
He often had to leave his room because of the ghost. I looked at the parents, and they admitted that they did in fact have a ghost in their house. I didn't really learn about how to deal with that in the credential program. I asked them about the ghost, and they mentioned it's been there since they moved in and often wakes them up at night.
They brought a psychic over who confirmed that there was a ghost there. I am not religious, but at this point, I suggested maybe a priest because I know they are Catholic. They said they would look into it. I was a little deflated after that, and mentioned something about how maybe he could go to bed an hour earlier.
32. Gimme Shelter
I teach in a conservative Christian redneck rural high school. Those adjectives seem to go hand-in-hand, but I digress. I'm from up North. In my first year teaching in the South, I accidentally let a swear word slip one day in the middle of class. No big deal, no one seemed to say anything. I'm sure teenagers had heard worse.
The following week, one of my student's parents asked to have a conference with me to talk about his daughter's progress in my class. So I printed out a progress report and met him in the conference room during my planning period. He started the conversation with small talk about how I liked living down in the South, how everything was going, and how his daughter was doing. Everything seemed innocent enough—but it would soon turn dark.
He then switched gears and started to talk about the Bible and church, and how his family loved to go to church and hear about the teachings of the Lord. He asked me if I went to church. When I told him no, he replied "I suppose that's why you have no problem using filthy language in my daughter's class".
He proceeded to tell me about how his family was raised right, how he was as conservative, far to the right as possible, and how his daughter should never have to hear anything like that in her life ever, especially in a school setting. I apologized for my harsh words in class (all the time thinking several dozen more toward this gentleman) and we ended the conference.
I was a new teacher, and I was intimidated. I was left speechless after the encounter. I immediately thought of two things: one, I really need to make sure I have an administrator in every teacher conference with me from now on. And two, what kind of sheltered life must this poor girl live with a father and family life like that?
She's sheltered from everything in the world; from so-called harsh language, music, and the internet. I could only imagine where this girl's boundaries had been set. Some day she'll probably rebel against him, especially with what goes on here in a public high school setting. Fast forward two years, and we're having our regularly scheduled monthly fire drill. That's when the tables turned.
One of the teachers in my hall was taking attendance after returning to the room, and she noticed that two students are missing. One of them was the girl I had several years ago, and the other one was our high school's star running back. She called the office to let them know, and a few minutes later they were found. They were hooking up in the parking lot.
33. He Really Excelled
So I'm not a real teacher, but I've had teaching moments or jobs. One time, I was tutoring a kid on how to use a computer. I'm talking about really basic stuff, like using Word or a browser, Excel, stuff like that. I'd give this kid pop quizzes at the start of each session to see how he had improved in typing and if he knew how to get somewhere with the least amount of clicks. He would basically fail every quiz.
So one day his mom called me yelling and crying, and I couldn't figure out why. This kid was about 11 years old by the way. When she finally calmed down, she revealed her odd source of distress—her son had come home sad about his failed pop quizzes and that she was afraid he won't get into college.
I kind of just paused there, not knowing how the topic of college came up. I was able to get her to explain to me, that her son was convinced that the quizzes he was taking were somehow going on some official report, one that his future colleges and employers would get. I couldn't help myself and I began laughing. Once I had calmed down, I told her that it was not how it works and that I was just a tutor.
Once she explained that to her son, guess what? He began doing MUCH better. Turns out, he was just having anxiety about the whole thing. And guess who had told him the idea that I'd be reporting his grades to his colleges? His mom.
34. Bridge to Terabithia
I had a very bizarre meeting with a parent a couple of years back. It wasn't actually because of a student of mine, it was my teaching partner's student, but I still went to the meeting. A small bit of context: The school had a new principal who changed a lot of things in the school in a short period of time. The previous principal had essentially catered to whatever the parents wanted because it was a very affluent community.
She wanted to make the school seem like a private school, not a public one. She implemented weird little things like not allowing the teachers to have gas station coffee cups because it was seen as lower class. The teachers could only buy coffee from Starbucks (really). Anyway, the point is, that the parents were used to getting their way...and they did NOT take kindly to change.
This new principal that came in basically put an end to some of the very superfluous spending and the parents did not like him. So this parent meeting was really a back-handed way of getting back at the principal, but my teaching partner got lined up in the cross-hairs in the process. The parent wanted to meet because she didn't agree with us watching a movie in class during class hours.
We watched a movie in class for two reasons. One: between our two classes we had just recently raised $10,000 for cancer research after a student lost his mother to cancer and kids in our classes wanted to do something to help. We wanted to reward their efforts. Two: we were watching Bridge to Terabithia because we had just recently read the novel and were doing a comparison of the movie to the novel.
Well, the parent did not like the idea that we were wasting class time watching movies. She came into this meeting with me, the principal, and my teaching partner with her own copy of the district's teacher handbook. She wanted to know which specific educational minutes were being used to watch the movies in class. But that's not even what made us livid.
She demanded to know the circumstances around why my teaching partner had taken a personal leave earlier in the year (which is really none of her business), she complained that due to us "wasting" two hours of school time watching TV, she now had to take away her child's TV watching time at home so that they could do schoolwork.
Apparently, he only gets to watch TV on Friday evening, and now did not get to watch any TV that week. It basically became a 90-minute meeting where we ended up having to justify every minute of our lesson plans, all because she wanted to find a way to get the principal in trouble because he stopped funding custom-made school folders to be handed out to parents at the beginning of the year.
35. Gender Equality
In my freshman year of high school, I had this one teacher who delighted in scoring the boy students really low and the girl students really high. Some of the girls had 120% grade score averages after extra credit. A lot of the boys had 40% or below. She had a rule that students couldn't do extra credit if their grades on tests or homework were below a certain grade.
It didn't matter how hard I tried, I never could seem to get my grade up. So a bunch of us got together and decided to just say SCREW IT. We held a competition for the lowest grade point average, which is why my parents had a talk with the teacher. I wasn't in the room so I don't know what was said exactly but, the gist of it was that she was discriminating based on gender.
She said she was giving the girls extra opportunities to succeed and forcing the boys to fail. In her mind, men had extra opportunities in the real world that women didn't. My mom flipped her lid. Her parents were teachers. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. Anyway, they talked to the principal and to the superintendent afterward.
I'm not sure what happened to her, but my parents pulled me from the class. I ended up getting a 100% grade in summer school. When I graduated, she was still working for that high school. I think it had something to do with her working there for 30 years or so, not sure how school politics work out.
36. Like a Sore Thumb
All of us first graders made construction paper cutouts of our family car, and the teacher hung them on the wall for the big night. She must have thought I was crazy for requesting three colors of construction paper: dark blue, light blue, and grey. My dad was restoring an old Mustang. It had been painted light blue at some time in the past.
But there were spots where the light blue had been sanded down or worn off or something, revealing the original dark blue paint, as well as some grey primer paint spots. So I happily cut out this light blue car and pasted irregular blue and grey blobs all over it. And I was proud of it. Then came time for the big reveal—parent-teacher night rolled around and my parents walked in—the first thing they saw was the wall covered in those cutouts, and of course, mine stood out.
Years later, my mom told me that when she saw it, she didn't know whether to laugh or cry, but my dad started laughing, so she took his cue.
37. Ruined Breakfast
My grandmother's father was a dean at a midwestern state university in the 1950s. My grandmother told me he once mentored a student who was the first generation of his family to attend college. This student worked hard but apparently, he wasn't all that academically minded and he struggled to cope with the coursework.
He failed and was forced to retake classes multiple times. Eventually, his GPA became so low he had virtually no chance of raising it enough to graduate. When my great-grandfather told him this, the student said he understood and thanked him for his time and help. On graduation day, as my grandmother and her parents were eating breakfast, someone knocked on the front door. When they opened it, they were totally surprised.
It was the student and his parents, who had come up to attend his college graduation. He hadn't been able to muster the courage to tell them. He just brought them to my great-grandfather's house and forced him to do it. In my grandmother's words, "The mother cried. Profusely. It sort of put a damper on breakfast".
38. Transfer Student
I have a boy in my class that had a serious brain injury when he was little, and now (as a 9th grader in Algebra 1) he can barely identify the difference between addition and subtraction. He is also illiterate. In a meeting with the mother, we had to suggest to the mother that he be placed in a substantially separate learning environment because he could not keep up with the regular education curriculum.
They were from another country, so all of our responses had to go through a translator. I couldn't believe their reactions—I sat in the meeting while she (and the student) sobbed and begged us not to put him in this program. They were crying and said that he will stay after and try harder, but they ultimately refused the transfer/placement.
He is still in my class and is failing. He still can not identify addition and subtraction (despite one-on-one tutoring I can occasionally provide). Having the mother sobbing in front of me begging to "save her son" was gut-wrenching, especially now as I watch him drown in a sea of knowledge that he can not comprehend.
39. Just Hold It
This happened when I was eight, with a particularly horrible substitute teacher. In class, we had our weekly spelling test, which I was pretty pumped for because I always finished them early and got to spend the rest of the period doing whatever I wanted. Halfway through the test, I had to pee, so I put my hand up and politely asked if I could go to the bathroom.
The teacher said no, which I thought was odd but I just accepted it. I finished the test and asked again, but she still said no. I had to sit there until everyone is finished. Now I was getting desperate because I really needed to go. So I asked again. This time, she blew her top—she yelled at me in front of everybody during the test. I don't remember exactly what she said, but all I know is that it was enough to make me start crying and immediately pee myself in the middle of class.
The meeting: Well, that afternoon when my parents came to pick me up, they obviously saw that I was in PE shorts and they asked me why. I told them the whole story. Now my dad is usually pretty calm, but that day, his eyes were lit red. He (understandably) went crazy on the teacher. I don't remember much of the meeting itself, but I do remember the teacher bursting into tears and running out of the room.
I wouldn't normally condone yelling at a teacher, as my mom is one, but I think in this case it was justified. Turns out, she was worried about me cheating on the test or writing the answers on the stalls for others, not anything I would have considered back then.
40. Candy Crush
I had a student at summer school who would get up, walk around, ignore teachers, and not do his work, so one day we didn't give him a piece of candy at the end of the day. He was upset and we explained to his mom why he didn't get said candy. His mother's response was reasonable: "Well, that's totally fine, he needs to learn that if he doesn't listen to directions, he won't get rewarded". But then she totally blindsided us.
She went home, called all the other parents of the kids in the class, and told them all that we were picking on her kid and playing favorites. Called the director of the summer school program. Of course, now her kid gets candy even if he hits teachers. Awful woman.
41. High School Buddies
My mom teaches 4th grade in a town away from where she graduated high school. In her second year of teaching, she had her parents come in for conferences like usual—nothing out of the ordinary, just a mid-semester check-up. The last parent to come in was this woman that had to be well over 200 pounds, wearing little shorts, with hickeys all over her neck.
My mom began her introduction before the woman gave her a nasty look and called her by her first name. Then it hit her. In high school, this woman ruined my mom’s life! She called her names every day, made fun of my mom's body, and just heckled her over everything! They did the whole "It's so nice to see you" chat and my mom went on about the student.
They had a couple of other meetings, none really pleasant, especially the time the mom's boyfriend came along. Mom also likes to call parents about their kids for good reports every few months. Once, she called this parent and her student answered. My mom said hello and asked for her mom to tell her how good of a student she was.
The little girl brought her the phone, and my mom could hear in the background the little girl being berated and asked what trouble she had gotten into. The little girl said no trouble, she wanted to talk about the good stuff. The girl's mom said in that case, no, she didn't want to talk to my mom. The little girl began crying and got back on the phone with my mom.
My mom's heart broke. She told the girl she loved her, as well as all the good things she had planned to tell her mom. My mom has been a teacher for a while now and I am happy to say she just saw this girl graduate last year, despite her mother.
42. Mixed Emotions
I was never really good at math but once high school hit, it really went downhill for me. One day, I asked my teacher to repeat a lesson because I really wasn't getting it. He decided to turn to the class and yell: "What! Are you stupid?" in front of my peers would help. Needless to say, I didn't take that very well and started ditching class.
Fast forward to the parent-teacher night. I have a very old-school European mom who, no matter what, always sided with the teacher; but that day, she showed me a different side. After seeing my grade, I explained to her what happened. She didn't say a word until she sat in front of Mr. Dundee (the math teacher). His face lit up like it was Christmas morning.
He was so excited to tell her just what a terrible math student I was. She listened calmly and when he was done, she simply asked, "Do you think it has anything to do with you calling her stupid?" He turned red and stammered. At this point, my mom cut him off and flipped out. My brother was about six at the time and couldn't stop laughing.
I was pretty proud of my mother...until we got home. She still laid the smackdown on me but while doing so, she told me to never ever let anyone speak to me like that. I had mixed emotions at that point.
43. Acting Out
It was my first year as a teacher. I have a class of my own, and a boy in my class was called up by the discipline teacher for being rude to another teacher. I had to inform his parents, but he was being looked after by his grandma. When she came to school, I was taken aback by her age—she was only 45.
She pleaded to me and the discipline teacher that her grandson was feeling stressed as it was approaching the anniversary of his mother's passing. The issue was they had to move out of their rented place. The boy would always visit his mom's grave, but now that they don't have a place to stay, he had no idea what to say to her.
Hence, he took it out on the teacher. This boy has never given me problems and is an angel in the classroom all the time. The sudden outburst was unbecoming of him. Isn't exactly haunting, but this experience stays with me forever.
44. Don’t Need a Lunch
I had a student that simply didn't come to school in the morning for his second-period class. The student had a 30% from barely doing work. I only taught this course in the second period, but this woman had me, a guidance counselor, and the principal for this meeting. I felt totally ambushed—she wanted this class to be changed from the second period to the sixth period because: "It's too early in the morning for him to come in. He just doesn't like waking up early".
After trying to hide facial expressions, I calmly explained that the sixth period was my lunch and the second period was the only time I taught that particular class. She then explained that I didn't need a lunch break and that the whole class needed to be switched to the sixth period, even though 22 other students come to that class on time and have no major issues.
My jaw dropped. My principal tells me I'm fine with heading back to what I was doing and basically told this woman to politely stop wasting our time.
45. Secret Reader
I've had a couple of interesting interactions with parents during my brief time as a classroom teacher, but for some reason, one sticks out in my head. We hadn't even scheduled a parent-teacher conference, but mom was late to pick up her girl and I decided to stay with her homeroom teacher to keep an eye on her while we waited.
Now, this girl was in my reading class, and she was quickly developing a reputation for just not reading. She'd keep waiting for me to turn my attention to another kid, then she'd close her book and just do whatever she wanted. It didn't seem any kind of teacher punishment would stop her. So when mom swept in, looking slightly frazzled, I took the opportunity to carry out my well-devised plan—I told her the truth about her daughter's behavior.
This woman turned to her child and launched into a fierce diatribe in a language I'd never heard before (but really loved the sound of), and her child immediately started screaming and crying. The mom turned to me then and said with narrowed eyes, "If you ever catch her doing it again, text me and tell her mama's not letting her play with the tablet that night". The kid shaped up in class, needless to say.
46. Different Strengths
I used to teach high school art. The administration had this idea to have an evening where we all set up tables, and parents went through their kid's schedules and had a sort of "speed dating" parent/teacher conference. We had to bring packets of work for any kids that were failing to pass to parents to give to their kids and could set up future meetings individually if needed.
Being that I taught art, not a lot of kids were failing unless they just didn't show go to class, so it was a mind-numbingly boring four hours for me as no one except a couple of sweet students stopped by to chat. In the very last block of the evening, a mom and dad just drop into the folding chairs in front of my table.
They both had arms full of make-up packets and they both just looked so defeated. The mom looked at me with tears in her eyes and she asked me a gutwrenching question: "What does my kid do wrong in your class?" I was so surprised by her question because I honestly adored her son. He was one of my favorite students! He completed every project on time and had a great personality.
He constantly had me and the rest of the class in stitches. He was always the first to volunteer to help me out with any setup or clean-up and went out of his way to say hello to me, even on days he didn't have my class. I took great joy in telling his parents how he was an absolute bright spot in my day and watching a little bit of the sadness fall from their shoulders before they left for the night.
When the student came in the next day he gave me a giant hug and told me to thank him for saying all the nice things about him. I told him that I didn't say anything that wasn't true and that I hoped he treated every teacher the same way he treated me. He laughed a little and said he would work on it. When I checked his grades at the end of the semester he was working hard to pull up all of his grades. By the end of the year, he passed nearly all of his classes.
So my brother began his first year of teaching kindergarten at age of 25. On his first ever parent-teacher night, he looked up and saw that he recognized one of the mothers of one of his students, Sophie. His jaw dropped when she walked into his classroom. Turns out, he had a one-night stand with her about five years ago while he was in college. Sophie herself was five years old. Apparently, he was losing it during the entire open school night.
At the end of the night, the woman came up to him and just said, “Nope".
48. Don’t Listen to Your Mom
This is still one of the most disgusting exchanges that I have ever witnessed. I taught social studies in 6th grade, and during a conference, my student's mother looked at her daughter (failing my class miserably but still trying) and then me. Her mom then made a truly disturbing statement: "Why does she need her brains when she is pretty?"
Fast forward two years, I was moved to 8th grade and I had her once again in my classroom. She completely reversed their attitude towards school—she only cared about her appearance and boys. She failed all of her classes but thanks to today's education system, we sent her to high school. I found out from another teacher that she was pregnant by October and dropped out by November.
49. Like Father, Like Son
The mom couldn't come to school because she recently had a stroke. We have this little boy who you can't help but love, even though he does the opposite of EVERYTHING you ask, but you can tell he's seen a lot in his 12 years. Anyway, things were getting pretty bad for him, as he had thrown a desk at another kid in my classroom.
So, we had the aunt come to school for a parent conference. She shared with us a dark truth about his home life—when the student was six, he watched his uncle hurt his daddy, who passed from his injuries. She also shared that he says he can't wait to do his uncle like he did his daddy one day.
50. Tight Pants
My first parent-teacher night was genuinely terrifying. The mom and dad walked in looking like they didn’t care about being there. I had my happy face on and I tried telling them about what's been going on in the classroom. Finally, I finished my spiel, and the dad threw a live grenade at me: "So, what's this about you calling my daughter 'tight pants?'"
I started freaking out internally, flipping through my mind about what he could possibly be talking about. The last thing I wanted to be considered a pervert at an elementary school. Then it hit me. On the first day of school, the class was sitting on the floor criss-cross and her jeans were literally so tight she couldn't cross her legs on the floor.
She looked silly trying to sit down. The class laughed and she was cool with it. All I said was, "Okay tight pants, do your best". I guess she told her parents in passing and their radar went off, which was appropriate. But after explaining the story, the mom and dad scoffed and said, "Sure...” without cracking a smile at the confusion.
I guess that's understandable, but all I was thinking was screw you, I'm not trying to pull something with your fourth-grade daughter. Maybe next time don't buy your nine-year-old jeans that prevent her from sitting down.