Take off your sunglasses, because it’s about to get shady in here! These ex-students recall the terrible teachers they dreaded while in school. Content has been edited for clarity.
The Wicked Witch Of The West
“When I was in sixth grade, I had a lovely homeroom teacher. She was kind to everyone, took time to get to know each student, and kept a bag of candy and a stuffed animal under her desk in case someone was having a rough day. She was the kind of teacher every child dreamed of having. Let’s call her, ‘Mrs. L.’
Then she went on maternity leave.
The substitute teacher was a woman who I remember only as the Wicked Witch of the West. She looked down on students like a vulture on a branch. We’ll call her, ‘Mrs. W.’
Mrs. L knew not all students were comfortable with being called out in class, and she would happily accommodate all types of learners. Mrs. W rejected any kind of learning which deviated from the lesson plan, even for students like me who had an individualized education plan. Mrs. L allowed people to sit wherever they were comfortable, while Mrs. W assigned everything from seats to project groups.
For whatever reason, Mrs. W despised me more than everyone else. She loved to make me uncomfortable at the worst times, but one incident stuck out in particular.
My homeroom class also happened to be an introductory Spanish class. One day, the class was doing popcorn reading on a Spanish article about families in other countries. One kid picked me to read the second-longest paragraph.
I had dyslexia, so although I was in sixth grade, my reading and writing in English were at a third-grade level. It was difficult for me to speak and read Spanish with all of the accents and different pronunciations.
I focused all of my energy on the paragraph and read one word at a time. It took me at least twenty seconds to read a single sentence. Even then, I made lots of errors.
Halfway through, Mrs. W stopped me and said, ‘Can somebody else please take over reading? We don’t have all day.’
I replied, ‘I’m sorry, but English is hard enough for me, let alone a whole new language.’
The substitute snidely replied, ‘Well, then maybe you should concentrate more and work harder.’
I explained, ‘I’m doing my best, I just can’t.’
‘You’re just making an excuse to be lazy,’ she questioned, ‘Why would you choose to be illiterate?’
I remembered wanting to cry right there while the other kids laughed at me.
The substitute acted as if I chose for letters to float around the page like alphabet soup, giving me a headache if I tried to read more than a few pages in one sitting.
She acted as if I chose to be unable to discern my lefts and rights and ups and downs in everyday situations.
There was no happy resolution or revenge plot. I just ended up switching homerooms and dropping Spanish so I wouldn’t have to deal with her.”
“I Couldn’t Contain My Feelings Any Longer”
“When I was in high school, eleventh grade to be exact, my father suffered from three fatal medical events. Unfortunately, he passed away. Every language ever invented failed to articulate the pain and shock my family and I went through. My father wasn’t terminally ill, and there weren’t any signs of pain or discomfort on his part before his passing.
One Sunday morning, my father was complaining about shooting pain in his chest, and about half an hour later, he succumbed to his heart attack. The day after the event, his picture appeared in the newspaper declaring his passing. I didn’t go to school for several weeks after, but I knew I had to go back eventually.
On my first day back to school, most of my teachers were sympathetic toward me. When one of my teachers hugged me, I began crying extremely hard. She continued holding me and assured me everything would be alright.
My math teacher, however, was not so warm.
I was sitting in her class, and as soon as she walked in she announced, ‘Class, we will be having a test next week.’
She told us the date of the test, and I remembered it was the same day as a family gathering for my father’s passing.
I went to her desk and explained, ‘I won’t be able to take the test on this day. My family is having a gathering for my father.’
She screamed at the top of her lungs, ‘What? You didn’t take the test last time because your father passed away! Now you’re missing the test next week because of it?’
I was appalled. She made it seem like I was using my father’s passing as an excuse to not take the test. Her reaction was unpredictable, and I was bewildered. I didn’t utter a single word in response, and I trudged back to my seat. I immediately began crying, as I could not contain my feelings any longer.
The teacher turned to me and asked, ‘Can you stop crying now? You need to get over it.’
At the time, it hurt me so much. I even stopped attending her class as I couldn’t bear to be in the same room as her. Her strictness didn’t teach me courage or fortitude. All her attitude ever did was hurt me beyond belief. If anything, the teacher who made a difference in my life was the one who let me cry while hugging her.
I didn’t have any grudges against my math teacher. I felt bad for her because she was deprived of compassion and empathy. The passing of my father wasn’t just something I could instantly ‘get over,’ it was a lifelong battle.
Nowadays, I am a professor. I treat my students with as much respect and love as I expect from them. I have always believed it is important for every child to feel loved.”
“I Never Looked At The Teacher The Same Way”
“I had a terrible psychology teacher my freshman year of high school.
On my first day of school, she noticed my last name and said, ‘Wait, are you Mark’s brother?’
Mark, my oldest brother, was five years older than me. In school, he was a notorious troublemaker. It wasn’t the fun, mischievous sort, more in a spiteful troublemaker way. This teacher had him in class a couple of years prior.
I responded, ‘Yes, I am Mark’s brother.’
I didn’t realize this confession would be held against me in such a way, but she scowled at me and said, ‘I’m going to be keeping my eyes on you.’
The entire semester, I consistently received grades I didn’t agree with on my essays. The teacher filled the pages with comments about how I was wrong or how I hadn’t provided justification for my arguments. If I didn’t cite something correctly, even if it was using a comma instead of a period, the entire citation was ignored throughout the paper.
When I volunteered to speak on a topic in class, I would frequently be told I was plain wrong, even when my answer was directly from the textbook.
I found myself having to do actual homework in a feeble attempt to keep my grade above an F. One of the assignments I Had to do was a log of reading activities throughout the course of the semester. I began reading at a torrid pace, both filling in the days I had missed, plus the rest. On the assignment, I had to list the date, journal, article, and authors. I also had to include my views on the research and how I felt about it. I slowly compiled a full notebook with my reading activity logs.
A week before the reading log due date, I was talking to a friend in class. This friend was a student who always had straight A’s, and we were pondering how the teacher planned to grade the reading logs. We couldn’t understand how she would actually go through so many journals, knowing she only had a couple of days to grade them. We reached the conclusion that there was no possible way she would actually grade the journals, and she would just give them a quick look instead.
My friend confessed, ‘I haven’t done a single one of the journals. I kept procrastinating on it, so I never even started.’
I thought it was hilarious. The straight A student hadn’t even done his own homework!
After the confession, I made him an offer, ‘Dude, seriously. Just take my journal this weekend and copy it word for word. She won’t even notice.’
He hesitantly responded, ‘Seriously?’
I shook my head and replied, ‘Yeah, man. Just take it. She isn’t going to read it, so go for it.’
I gave him my journal and he copied it over the weekend. He gave it back on Monday, and I turned it in on Tuesday to be graded.
A few days later, we received our journals back from the teacher. Inside my journal, each page had been marked with a red pen, identifying where the teacher didn’t agree with my thoughts or found flaws. I got an F on my journal.
My friend’s journal had three or four pages marked, ‘Great analysis!’ and ‘Very well done, I like your thinking!’
Even in cases where the same page was marked up in each journal, we had entirely different feedback.
He got an A. I never looked at the teacher in the same way again.”
“I Absolutely Hated The Class”
“Without a doubt, my least favorite education was my eighth-grade biology teacher. He was also the school football coach, and it was obvious what activity he preferred to be doing.
In his classroom, there were two chalkboards side by side, with a sliding chalkboard on top. So in the same space of two chalkboards, we instead had three. Every single day, the students walked into class with two chalkboards completely crammed with notes. He didn’t teach. Instead, we were told to copy the notes word for word.
About halfway through the class, he would slide the top board over and reveal the third chalkboard filled with more notes. Other than telling us to take notes, he never spoke another word during the class.
What did he do while the students took notes?
He played a handheld football game.
I absolutely hated the class! I had an eighth-grade teacher who made physics fun, and a seventh-grade teacher who actually made me look forward to his mechanical science class. However, after taking biology with this crummy teacher, I swore off science classes forever.
Prior to taking this class, I was basically an A student. The only class I could not seem to get an A in was physical education, as I was never athletic or coordinated. At the least, I tried very hard and earned a B in PE every year. My biology class was an exception.
The biology teacher gave me the first C I had ever earned in my life, and I totally broke down. I begged my parents to help me change the grade. Out of wanting to support the teachers and still help me succeed, my mother made an appointment with this teacher to figure out how I could improve my grade.
He told my mother, ‘She is fine. I don’t think she deserves anything other than a C.’
He actually refused to help my mother and me!
If we want to turn students away from science, I suggest we clone this lousy teacher.”
The Menacing Math Teacher
“I had a terrible teacher who taught my high school math class when I was fifteen years old. He was newly hired, and he ran a chaotic class. The teacher would regularly rant about how we would all end up working at McDonald’s and do nothing with our lives.
I was an incredibly shy student and I never spoke in class. The teacher didn’t even know my name, just my assigned student number. Until one day, when everything changed.
On this day, the teacher was in rare form. He started with a joke without any punchline, lectured, shouted, swore, and argued with everyone in the class. I quietly sat in the back row with my novel, waiting for the bell to ring so I could finally escape.
All of a sudden the teacher shouted, ‘Hey, you!’
He was looking right at me.
The teacher got right in my face and demanded, ‘Come to the front of the class right now!’
He turned to the students and explained, ‘See students? This is what a menace to the class looks like. She is flagrantly disobeying my instructions.’
The teacher continued by saying he claimed to have warned me three times prior about reading books in class. He sent me to the principal’s office with instructions to suspend me immediately. At this point, I was sobbing, and the class was finally silent.
I went to the office teary-eyed, and the secretaries (one of which was my mother) spent the next hour calming me down. The principal was confused as to why I was sent to the office since I was a pretty good student, so he called the teacher and my parents in for a meeting.
I was only in the meeting for five minutes before the teacher made me cry again.
The teacher told the principal he scolded me because ‘I didn’t want her to go down the wrong path in life.’
My parents and principal were unimpressed.
I got all A’s in math for the rest of high school and in college. The offending teacher didn’t return to work the following year.”
“My Mom Flew Off The Handle”
“In the sixth grade, I had an abusive English teacher.
She would never ‘send us out into the hallway,’ instead, she would grab our arms and drag us into the hallway. I would leave school with bruises and scratch marks from her ridiculously long fingernails.
Eventually, my mom finally found out.
One day in class, I was pulling the projector down and I noticed something written on the board behind it. It was a swear word, and I had no idea what the meaning of the word was.
I repeated the word and questioned, ‘Why does it say this back here?’
Some of the boys in class began laughing.
I noticed the teacher’s face became red, so I repeated the word again and said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry. Was I not supposed to tell you someone wrote the word on there?’
The teacher grabbed my arm and swung me into the hallway before slamming the door. When she grabbed me this time, she actually drew a tiny amount of blood with her nails. My shoulder joint was in immense pain, so I started tearing up. Afterward, she came into the hallway and began yelling at me.
When I got home, I told my mom, ‘I promise I didn’t mean to get in trouble this time, but the teacher actually really hurt me.’
My mom asked, ‘What do you mean by this time?’
I explained to her how some of the other kids and I got bruises from the teacher grabbing us too hard. Naturally, my mom flew off the handle and called the school. Other kids were talked to, a good portion of whom had received bruises from the same teacher.
After the school found out, she was fired. I was glad she was gone.”
The Broken Arm Blues
“When I was in second grade, I broke my arm. My teacher didn’t believe me despite the bulky cast on my arm, and she accused me of forging a signed letter from my mom. At the time, I was only seven years old.
The previous day, I was riding my scooter with a friend right after school was released. I accidentally swerved off of the sidewalk, hit a rough patch of grass, and was sent sprawling back onto the sidewalk. My wrist was completely twisted, and I hit the ground hard. I actually ended up breaking a couple of different bones in my arm.
Immediately after, my mom took me to the hospital. I waited for four hours to be helped, as my injury wasn’t considered an emergency. By the time I had my cast put on and arrived back home, it was late at night and I didn’t have time to do my homework. My mom said she would write me a signed note explaining what happened to my wrist, and how I was in the hospital all night.
The next day, I brought in the signed note to my teacher. She looked at the note, at my cast, then at the note again.
She glared into my eyes and bluntly asked, ‘Did you forge this letter, or did your mom actually write it?’
I explained, ‘No, it is a real letter. I don’t even know how to write my mom’s name in cursive.’
Again, she asked, ‘Are you sure this letter is real? You better not be lying to me.’
After more of this back-and-forth, I could tell she had already made up her mind. I decided to ‘confess,’ and I told her I forged the note. I just didn’t want to deal with her banter anymore. In light of my confession, she banned me from recess.
After school, I told my mom what happened with my teacher. She was furious! My mom e-mailed the teacher and explained everything to her again.
When I went into class the next day, the teacher looked at me and said, ‘Why didn’t you just tell me you couldn’t do your homework?’
Needless to say, I was dumbfounded. The teacher never questioned a note from my mother again.”
“He Was An Unsettling Person To Be Around”
“When I was in high school, I had a male teacher for my English class. He was an unsettling person to be around. He was tall, always carried a stick, and was extremely quiet.
My heart sank when he walked into class on the first day of school because it meant I would have to go the whole year with him.
As it would turn out, I only had to deal with him for three months.
His teaching style was really boring. He would tell us which part of the syllabus the class would be working on, read directly from the textbook, and stare at us the entire class period. I sat at the back of the class, and I could barely hear him talk. Even when I could hear him, I couldn’t understand what he was saying because he didn’t enunciate properly.
Naturally, the students stopped paying attention to him. Some students did homework from other classes, and some students read books. Others simply stared at the teacher or passed notes to their friends.
One day, the teacher finally erupted.
He shouted, ‘Nobody ever pays attention to me or takes note!’
He managed to work himself up into such a rage that he began hitting tables with his stick and berating every single student.
To top it all off, he then threw his chair out of the classroom and kicked his table out after it.
He exclaimed, ‘You will never see me in this classroom again!’
It was true. The students never did see him again, as he walked out and never came back.
Everyone was stunned and absolutely shocked into silence. Afterward, we all began to laugh a bit. We pulled the table and chair back into the classroom and marveled at how a teacher could behave in such an awful manner.
Honestly, he was the worst teacher I ever had.”
A Personal Reflection
“Actually, the worst teacher I ever had was myself.
During the first year of my teaching career, I taught as an adjunct professor to undergraduate advertising design students. At this point, I hadn’t been in school for fifteen years. Instead, I had been immersed in the hyper-competitive world of big agency creative development.
Why was I the worst? I had no idea what undergraduate students should know about design, how little confidence they had, and how fragile many of them were.
To make matters worse, the department chair drafted a memo reading, ‘If a student shows up every day, does their best, and performs as expected, they will earn a C.’
I took him seriously. I treated my students like my agency’s creative teams. In other words, I rejected a majority of their work.
Out of my twenty students, I believe only two earned an A. I flunked at least one student. Others earned D’s and C’s, and there were a few B’s. I believe I probably damaged some people’s scholarships.
I don’t remember exactly, but out of my roughly 20 students I believe only two got an A-. I flunked at least one. I handed out lots of Ds and more Cs and a few other grades. I think I probably damaged some people’s scholarships.
I wasn’t aware of any of this until I received my anonymous evaluations back from students. In their reviews, they really let me have it.
I have learned to become less of a bad guy over time, but I still feel bad for those first students.”
“He Would Never Actually Teach The Class”
“When I was in school, I had a terrible teacher. We’ll call him, ‘Mr. O.’
Mr. O would never actually teach the class. Instead, he would sit at his desk the entire time. He never once stood up to teach us, and he always read slides he found on the Internet or tell the class to read their textbook out loud. I never understood why he taught in this manner. He was surrounded by a class of excellent students, and every single person wanted to learn. Each student had great ambitions, and they only wanted to excel in the class.
It’s not like the other students and I were sitting around talking to each other in class, we really wanted to learn. However, it didn’t work out when the teacher didn’t want to teach.
If this wasn’t enough, he was extremely discriminatory towards most students in class. On the rare occasion when he did like a student, he gave them full marks on the exams.
I hope nobody ever has to experience such a teacher.”