Scary Teacher Stories

It’s a fact — I won’t deny it. Homeschoolers love to laugh — or fulminate — over scary teacher stories. Similarly, parents of gifted children have more than their share of scary teacher stories to bond over.

As a homeschooling parent of a gifted child, the temptation to kvetch about teachers is doubly great, and tonight I gave in. I was with some other moms from Violet’s theater group, hanging out while the kids were at rehearsal, and we started swapping “how I started homeschooling” stories.

What’s always striking about these exchanges is the similarities. One mom I was talking with has a son the same age as Violet, also very gifted. Even at his “Open School,” however, where the 1st and 2nd grades were combined in one classroom, his teacher refused to give him 2nd grade math. We started laughing as we recognized how familiar parts of this story were.

“We can’t do that, or all the advanced 1st graders will want to do 2nd grade math.”

“His desk is so disorganized — that shows he’s not mature enough for more challenging work.” [A one-year skip in math — is that so big a challenge?]

When I told her one of my favorites from our experience — “She’s always slow to put her things away after recess” — she laughed and nodded and said, “Yep, we heard that too!” Yes, I’m sure these kids had every reason to rush back to their desks to watch the other kids learn. If being disorganized or slow to hang up your coat is a reason to force kids who are reading the Narnia books at home to memorize sight words like “the” and “are” at school, it’s a wonder there aren’t more 12-year-olds in 1st grade.

Both of us also swapped stories of how our kids’ 1st grade teachers shamed them in various ways in front of the class. Both teachers seemed to have a mini-tantrum in front of the class, yelling, “You’re no smarter than anyone else!” and “I don’t know what to do with you!”

Is there a factory churning these people out, the same chip in different android bodies?

I should say right now that both of us also said good things about our kids’ Kindergarten teachers, and since she had an older child she added that all of her daughter’s teachers had been great. I know that there are many great teachers out there, and that these teachers shouldn’t have to represent all teachers anymore than wing-nut isolationists ought to represent all homeschoolers.

I’m just sayin’.

I know there are lots of parents with gifted kids who make school work for them, and more power to them. I know there are lots of parents with gifted kids for whom school isn’t working, but their circumstances are keeping them from considering homeschooling. And then there are lots of parents who’ve decided to homeschool — the number of highly to profoundly gifted kids we come into contact with through homeschooling is quite high as a percentage of the homeschoolers we know. Most of them have a scary teacher story that sounds just like ours.

Scary teachers . . . there’s another “S” word for the 117th Carnival of Homeschooing, “S” word edition, hosted this week by PHAT Mommy.


Filed under Gifted Ed, Gifted Heart and Soul, Learning Styles, Why Homeschool?

11 responses to “Scary Teacher Stories

  1. I particularly love that one about “if I let him they’ll all want to”. What exactly would be the problem of the kids working at their level of ability. One of the striking differences between the discourse in north america versus the discourse in the UK, is that in the UK they regularly talk about “multi-ability teaching”. When Tigger was in year 1, the teacher put a group of the advanced kids at one table and they were doing year 2 math near the end of that year. Not that there aren’t scary teachers there but …

  2. adsoofmelk

    I swear this isn’t a plug for my blog, but I recently wrote about a student teacher I have observing me who can’t spell or write a grammatically correct English sentence. Now, I can’t do calculus to save my life…but then again, I never kidded myself about becoming a math teacher. This person wants to be an English teacher. WHY?

    I think a lot of people go into teaching because they think it’s easy. Obviously, not all teachers fit this description, and many went into teaching because they loved their subject matter and wanted to impart it like a rare and precious gift to the minds they would encounter and turn them on like they’d been turned on themselves.

    On the other hand, the people who go into teaching because it’s easy (or they think it’s easy), they love the idea of what they think will be a job with a three-month vacation, they think that teaching must be easy because, after all, THEY went to school, are the ones who are going to be incredibly threatened by people precisely like Violet. They *know* that here’s a kid who has the power to pull down the curtain and reveal the fact that Oz the Great and Terrible is nothing more than a little guy from Nebraska.

    A lot of kids can be intimidated by teachers — by the power of their authority, if by nothing else — but a gifted kid gains power precisely because s/he sees that *the teacher is flawed.* The teacher spells “alot” as if it were one word. The teacher didn’t carry the 1. The teacher thinks that Columbus discovered America, that only even numbers can be divided by 2, or that coconuts are nuts.

    Teachers who are there to impart knowledge sometimes make these mistakes too because, well, they’re human. The difference is that they’re glad for the correction (or have the good grace to pretend that they are). They realize that they’re not the only person in the room with the right to be smart.

    Sorry to come here and vent — a very provocative and interesting post!

  3. Ha! Violet has corrected *me* on the “divisible by 2” thing. “Yes, honey, I know, I have to be extremely precise at all times. Mom needs more coffee.”

    I had not thought of the points you raise. Having had a brief career in tertiary education, I do tend to imagine that teachers go into it for the love of the subject, like I did, or if not then for the love of the kids and the excitement of learning. And having abandoned my education career, I have a hard time thinking of teaching as *easy*! (And don’t get me started on the 3-month “vacation” . . . )

    Yet there they are, those teachers who apparently have a different idea. Let’s hope you mentor some of them into sense!

  4. Pingback: Why Gifted Students Hate School « Lorem Ipsum

  5. sunniemom

    Remember “Catherine with a C” in the sequel to “Anne of Green Gables”? There are many who enter the teaching profession because they don’t think they can do anything else, and they hate it. I had a few of those as teachers when I was in school. Not a pleasant experience for any child, gifted or not.

    Many teachers are not even teaching a subject they are ‘expert’ in. My private school had the basketball coach teaching Chemistry for whatever reason, and he came to class so seldom that I started teaching it. He thought it was like a funny joke. I bet the parents wouldn’t have thought it was funny if they knew.

  6. I just don’t understand why they can’t see these kids as an opportunity. Grace was told, during her brief stint in first last year, that they did not have time to discuss the book the teacher was reading to them…We both found that very interesting. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. Allison

    I think a lot of teachers think they love kids, and want to have a family, and think teaching is a good career path for that–out of school when one’s own children are, etc.

    But I think they think they love kids more than they have ever paid attention to them.

    Some kids are easy. Some are docile, some are cute, some are nice. But some kids are demanding. Some kids are shy. Some kids are not interested in what you are. I think teachers are often a self selected group of people who find children easier to handle than adults–at least, the non demanding ones. I think a lot of teachers are completely unprepared for the students they don’t immediately relate to, and they see them as Other, and as a threat. How dare this child be demanding! how dare this child refuse to speak in class, how dare this child upset my little utopian classroom.

    Fundamentally, smart kids are threatening, because most people find smart people threatening, and in someone 2 decades younger, it’s off-putting. Unless you are secure enough in your own brains and skills, you will be upset when a child knows more than you know or asks a question you can’t answer. Most teachers aren’t secure, or they wouldn’t seek to work around children in the first place.

  8. Scary teacher stories… sounds like the exception rather than the rule. For every negative one about a particular teacher we can probably find 30 positive ones about the good ones.

    Free Teacher Websites & Communities

  9. Kidsmom

    When my son was in third grade they did a unit on mystery stories. He read an Agatha Christie story and I got called in to the school for giving him such “inappropriate material” to read. You’d think I’d committed some form of child abuse. Apparently the only acceptable mysteries were Magic Tree House type books about missing sandwiches and runaway ponies.

  10. Kristina

    Wow! I did not know so many parents had bad experiences with teachers. That is truly sad….I am hearing that a lot of parents of “gifted” children feel that the system is failing them, Have the students qualified under GT qualifications? That would be worth checking into. I cannot tell you how many parents tell me that their students are gifted and I would tend to agree with them, however I ask them what their child is gifted in and usually they cannot tell me. There are a lot of gifted students out there and the deciding factor is partially genetics and mostly parental involvement, initiative and conversing at an early age. As a teacher I truly appreciate when parents are involved with their child. As for meeting the needs of your child….why not step into classrooms of prospective teachers and see if they teach a differentiated learning classroom? Ask prospective teachers how they meet the needs of all students in the class. Request your child’s teachers and above all, be involved. I have an open door policy in my classroom, and granted I put parents to work helping in the classroom, but they know they are always welcome anytime and any day. I prefer to think that I am preparing children for the real world, where they will work along side others that may or may not be like them and where they will be held accountable to others, themselves, and learn to be leaders in society, and that following rules is not a bad thing as it transfers at some point in time to abiding by laws. But at the same time I teach them to question and prove themselves and even to question me if they need to. They learn to evaluate, assess, compare, and find information for themselves with guidance. Please don’t lump all teachers in the same category. Most public school teachers truly love and respect their students, try to meet their needs and respect their families and couldn’t imagine how anyone could feel otherwise. Why else would we be where we are? It isn’t the money and it certainly isn’t the “3 months off”. (-: We love the kids and feel privileged to teach all students and meet them where they are!

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