No educator is exempt from having an epic teacher fail. It happens to the greatest ones out there, and sometimes all you can do is sigh, laugh, and hope it never happens again. Here are some of the greatest epic teacher fails all of you brave teachers were willing to share with us.
1. “I flushed my student’s underwear down the toilet.”
One of the boys in my class had an accident. I had seen my mother clean underwear out by holding it in the toilet and flushing. Well, I never thought about how much more pressure toilets in a school would have. As I flushed, the underwear flew down the pipe! Needless to say, I was mortified, but the mom got a good laugh when I explained to her why her son came home without underwear!
2. “I fell into the lap of one of my students.”
I was standing on the sink counter hanging math posters when I slipped and fell off the counter, landing in the lap of one of my students. It wasn’t my greatest moment. I had to call his mother and tell her what happened. Thankfully, she laughed and said. “That’s OK, he’s a big kid!” I am definitely thankful he was a big, as well as a very nice, kid.
3. “I got detention.”
I was 22 when I started teaching. One day, on my way to the office, I forgot my name badge in my classroom. There was a substitute security guard on campus that day, and he saw me and asked where my hall pass was. I tried to explain that I was a teacher, but he told me, “Nice try, young lady!” and took me to detention. The detention supervisor thought it was so funny that she played along and told the security guard, “This one is always trying to fool us.”
4. “I told my middle school students how much I liked to Netflix and chill.”
It was my middle school classroom, and the students were writing NetflixAndChill on everything. One day as I was wiping off one of the tables, I asked them, “Why do you guys write this everywhere?” They laughed and asked if I Netflix and chilled. Being a pretty boring and exhausted new 30-year-old teacher, I said, “Yeah, me and my girlfriend Netflix and chill on the couch every day after work until we finally go to bed.” The class was rolling. When I got home I looked it up on urbandictionary.com. Oops.
5. “I insisted I was right when I was oh-so wrong.”
I was co-teaching in a math class. The students were having difficulty with a problem. So, I took over and spent five minutes explaining why 1 x 0 = 1. My co-teacher shook her head, making cutting motions with her hand and a multitude of other motions, to tell me I was wrong. When it finally dawned on me, I turned beet red and backed away from the board.
6. “I got more than I Googled for.”
In a German lesson on fruit, I Googled melons and got more than I bargained for!
7. “I offended both popcorn and cops.”
I told my middle school students that we were going to make cop porn balls rather than popcorn calls.
8. “I flushed my room keys down the toilet.”
It was a sacred bathroom break, and I was rushing because I was the only teacher in the room. I managed to flush, stand up, and pull up my pants in one motion, when I heard a clanking in the toilet. Looking down, I saw I had flushed my school keys. I rushed to the office to get another set since this was before access badges. They practically rolled on the floor when I told them what happened.
9. “I told a student to stop thinking.”
I had tutored students taking a progress test. One student was gazing at the computer screen for a very long time. I asked if something was wrong and he replied, “I am thinking.” I replied, “Quit thinking and finish the test.” The other two teachers in the room promptly doubled over with laughter.
10. “I left the answer key on a test.”
My AP US history class was taking a test. All was quiet until I heard a commotion. On the matching section of the test, I had failed to remove the answers before making copies!
11. “My underpants fell down while teaching a lesson.”
I went to school in a long skirt and a pair of ancient underpants. It didn’t occur to me that this would be a problem—I didn’t realize how much I move when I’m teaching large classes. By midmorning, my underpants were starting to drift down to my knees. I kept talking to the room full of 15- and 16-year-olds while I strode to the back of the room behind a cupboard and counter. To and fro, I shimmied a bit until my underpants reached my feet and then kicked them off into the corner. I came back out, still talking and holding some rulers as a dodgy cover-up. I don’t wear skirts to work anymore.
12. “I took science a little too far.”
In the early years of my career, I got overconfident with a lab demo using elemental sodium and blew out a ceiling tile!
13. “I gave students an accidental lesson in biology.”
While teaching a math lesson to sixth graders, we were talking about a specific problem involving frogs. I kept switching between saying the frogs hopped and the frogs jumped. Then on the final part of the problem, my brain morphed the two words into one. I told a room of sixth graders that the frogs humped to the right. On the plus side, I finally caught everyone’s attention.
14. “I pulled the fire alarm.”
I accidentally pulled the fire alarm at bus duty. The protective case had fallen off and was beeping. We were in the cafeteria waiting for the buses after school. I thought I’d help stop the beeping by trying to put the case back on. Instead, I accidentally pulled the lever down, causing the alarm to go off school-wide. It was quite awkward when the fire department showed up!
15. “I threw up in my hands.”
I was pregnant and super [nauseated]. One day, while teaching a lesson, I caught a whiff of the cafeteria food and instantly felt queasy. I couldn’t make it to the trash can, so I threw up in my cupped hands—in front of a classroom full of ninth graders! I didn’t know what to do, and I couldn’t leave them to go wash up, so I shook my hands off in the trash, sent a student to get some wet paper towels from the bathroom and kept teaching.
16. “I asked a student to give another the finger.”
You know those plastic pointers that look like a hand with the pointer finger as the pointer? I handed it to a student and said, “Bill, would please give Jenny the finger?”
17. “I forgot a student in the hallway.”
Early in my teaching, during a lesson on poetry, a student got up and started imitating the pigeons on the window ledge. It was the last straw for that student, and I had him take a seat in the hall, where I told him to stay until I retrieved him. Well, the day ended, the kids went home, and there’s a quiet little knocking on my door. He had done just what I told him to do—stayed put—and did not get on the bus and go home. I had to call his mother and tell her he missed the bus, and it was my fault. The next day, he was very excited to read his assigned quatrain: “Pigeons pee, and pigeons poo, I wish I could fly, like the pigeons do.”
18. “I told a student with one arm to strum a guitar.”
I am a school librarian, and at the beginning of the year when I still didn’t know all the kids, I was reading a book that lends well to having students use rulers as guitars to play along with the repeated verses. Then I gave all the six-year-olds rulers, and everyone held them in front to strum. I said to the one student who didn’t do this, “That’s not the way to hold a guitar.” One of the other kids said, “He only has one arm!”
19. “I asked a student who wears glasses if she was blind.”
In my second-grade classroom, I voiced my frustration at one little darling who kept dropping her pencil on the floor and letting it roll away, then claiming it was stolen. “Peyton, are you BLIND? It’s right there!” I exclaimed. Another precious child explained to me, “Well, she DOES wear glasses.” But did I learn? Just this year, I asked a third-grade student, “Are you color blind or what?” while [he was] coloring red and green on stop signs. His reply? “Actually, I am!” very proudly.
20. “I forgot how to spell a word in front of my principal.”
While in front of the class, I was writing electricity on the board just as the principal walked in. I spelled it wrong, and one of the kids was like, “Miss, that’s wrong!” I turn to fix it, and my mind goes completely blank. The principal is like, “Well, someone help her spell it.”
21. “I knocked over a glass of water during my observation.”
I always get so nervous during evaluations/observations. This time I was feeling pretty good—right up until the moment I backed into a table, knocking over my completely full water cup. I felt my rear graze it, and then it was all slow motion. What a mess! I pushed most of it aside, and kept going. My principal thought it was funny—as did my students.”
22. “My co-teacher accidentally cursed at the students.”
I was co-teaching a lesson, and we were discussing colonial schooling with our fourth graders. My partner was talking about “dame schools,” but she kept saying “damn schools.” I kept trying to catch her eye because I didn’t want to draw too much attention. Finally, the kids couldn’t hold off anymore and started laughing.
23. “I talked about the wrong student during parent-teacher conferences.”
During parent-teacher conferences, I had only been at the school for a few months and was seeing around 300 students a week. There were two girls by the same name, but they were at different levels. During one of the conferences, I spoke about the wrong child, realized halfway through and switched to super generic comments rather than admit I was talking about a different child.
24. “I confused the emergency alarms.”
Fire and tornado drills are the worst—especially the day I confused the two alarms. Thinking it was the fire alarm, I took my kids out to the street on the tornado drill siren. I will never forget my principal standing in the doorway of the fire escape for my room yelling, “Hey, wrong signal.” I was so fortunate it was just a drill but so unfortunate that everybody knew it happened.
What’s your epic teacher fail? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Plus, embarrassing teacher moments that have happened to us all.