American educators sent in their funniest classroom stories by the thousands. Read the $1,000 prize winner and more of our favorites.
“True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.”
A lot of teachers can relate to Kurt Vonnegut’s quote. From kindergarten to senior year, they’ve seen it all. So we recently asked members of this heroic profession to share their stories about the hilarious, sweet, droll, and occasionally clueless things their students do or say. Thousands wrote in, positive that their tale was worthy of the $1,000 grand prize. One was right. Here are the finalists, starting off with the A+ winning anecdote:
1. GRAND-PRIZE WINNER
After a coworker had finished his English lecture and his class had filed out, a tenth grader stayed behind to confront him.
“I don’t appreciate being singled out,” he told his teacher.
The teacher was confused. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t know what the ‘oxy’ part means, but I know what a ‘moron’ is, and you looked straight at me when you said it.”
—Jannie Smith, Ashville, Alabama
2. Rock Me, Amadeus
Performing Mozart should have been the highlight of my middle school chorus class. But after a few uninspired attempts, an exasperated student raised her hand and said, “Mrs. Willis, we want to sing music from our generation, not yours.”
—Wendy Willis, Naples, Florida
3. Lost in Translation
To my German-language students, I’m “Frau Draper.” One girl gave me a pin she’d made with my name on it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t big enough to include my entire name, which meant that she presented me with a badge that read FRAUD.
—Cathleen Draper, Edmonds, Washington
4. Why Waste Paper?
I recently asked a student where his homework was. He replied, “It’s still in my pencil.”
—Larry Timmons, Surprise, Arizona
5. Money Laundering
“Don’t do that,” I said when one of my first graders playfully draped a dollar bill over his eyes. “Money is full of germs.”
“It is?” he asked.
“Yes, it’s very dirty.”
He thought about it a moment. “Is that why they call people who have a lot of it ‘filthy rich’?”
—Elizabeth Webber, Prospect Park, Pennsylvania
6. Me, Myself, and Him
Jimmy had trouble figuring out when to use I instead of me. Then one day, while creating a sentence in front of the first-grade class, Jimmy haltingly said, “I … I … I shut the door.” Realizing that he was right, he jumped up and down and shouted, “Me did it!”
—Susan Williams, Portland, Indiana
7. Hey, You!
My sixth-grade class would not leave me alone for a second. It was a constant stream of “Ms. Osborn?” “Ms. Osborn?” “Ms. Osborn?” Fed up, I said firmly, “Do you think we could go for just five minutes without anyone saying ‘Ms. Osborn’?!”
The classroom got quiet. Then, from the back, a soft voice said, “Um … Cyndi?”
—Cyndi Osborn, New York, New York
8. Driven Crazy
During the driver’s-ed class that my friend taught, a student approached a right turn.
“Use your turn signal,” my friend reminded her.
“No one’s coming,” said the student.
“It doesn’t matter. It might help those behind you.”
Chastened, the student turned around to the students in the backseat and said, “I’m turning right up ahead.”
—Joseph Wagner, Prineville, Oregon
9. That Aha! Moment
“Who discovered Pikes Peak?” I asked an eighth grader. He shrugged. “All right, here’s a hint,” I continued. “Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?”
“Grant?” he asked tentatively.
“Good. Now, who discovered Pikes Peak?”
—Max Campbell, Dowagiac, Michigan
10. Thanks for the Help
On the last day of the year, my first graders gave me beautiful handwritten letters. As I read them aloud, my emotions got the better of me, and I started to choke up.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m having a hard time reading.”
One of my students said, “Just sound it out.”
—Cindy Bugg, Clive, Iowa