Posts Tagged ‘amusing teacher stories’

Teaching Kids

February 26, 2022

My favorite thing about teaching kids was the kids. They’re so much fun to be around. And they have so much love, a kind of love you won’t find anywhere else.  

As a teacher, every year I had the privilege to be with a group of kids for nine and a half months. During that time, my number one objective was to do everything I could to strengthen and support families.  

Parent conferences are scheduled early in the year, so teachers can meet all the parents and talk about our goals and address any concerns that the teacher or the parent may have.  

One year, a mother told me during our parent conference that her daughter was really enjoying my class, and the mother was happy about this because the girl had some problems the previous year during third grade. I told the mother this shocked me because she was such a spectacular kid, very enthusiastic and a real joy to be around. 

Anyhow, fourth grade was a grand success for this kid — she made all sorts of wonderful progress, socially and academically. The mother expressed gratitude every time I saw her. 

A Knock on My Door

One morning near the end of the year, I got a knock on my door before school. It was the girl and her father, whom I had never met before. The girl was holding a gift. 

The father said, “Mr. Bray, my wife and I would like to thank you for everything you did for our daughter this year.” I invited them in and told the father that it was my pleasure to be around his wonderful daughter every day. 

I have never seen anything more beautiful than the love parents have for their children. Nothing I have ever accomplished on a professional level ever made me feel better than knowing that I played a small role in the life of this family. Like Ira Gershwin said, “They can’t take that away from me.”  

She Called Me Gramma

There are some kids at an elementary who shine so bright that everybody knows their name — all the kids, all the teachers, and even the parents and volunteers. Liliana (not her real name) was one such student.  

Liliana lived with her gramma, and she was always saying things like, “Gramma said this” and “Gramma did that.” One time I walked past Liliana’s desk as she was working on a project. She pointed at her work and said to me, “Gramma, look!” Then she raised her head and gave me and the class the funniest look I ever saw, as if to say, “Oh my God, I just called Mr. Bray Gramma.”  

It was the longest sustained laugh I ever experienced in a classroom. I had to sit down because I was laughing so hard. I was actually very flattered because I knew she loved her gramma very much. 

by Richard W. Bray 

The Three Don’ts of Divorce and an Amusing Preschool Teacher Story

February 19, 2013

kids playing with fire truck

I took it as a compliment when someone chastised me for being “schoolmarmish” on a blog discussion thread. I assume the commenter was suggesting that it was prudish of me to describe reality tv as human cockfighting. (We were discussing the Real Housewives of somewhere or other, as I recall). I was tempted to respond that I’m very proud of the years I spent schoolmarming. Teaching kids is an important, demanding, and rewarding job.

Teaching elementary school is also very educational for teachers who keep their ears open. Not only do kids say the darnedest thing, but parents have a curious tendency to mistake teachers for Marriage and Family Therapists, particularly during parent conference season. And bitter divorcees of both genders are prone to inappropriate disclosures, a mistake which is compounded when done in front of one’s children.

This brings me back to my faded recollection of a long ago teacher’s lounge discussion about The Three Don’ts of Divorce:

#1 Don’t rag on your ex in front of the kids. Making stupid decisions with your life is nothing to brag about. And you really aren’t impressing people when you tell them that you chose to make babies with a pathetic loser. Furthermore, a relationship is not a competition; nobody wins when the final whistle blows. And the biggest losers will be your kids if you embarrass them by unraveling a giant ball of bitter in front of their teachers.

#2 Don’t ask your kids to spy on your ex. If you can’t let it go, try yoga. Deep breathing is not only good for the body, but it’s a wonderful metaphor for life; taking in and letting go is a continuous process. Struggling to hold on to something that no longer exists will rot your spirit; it will also turn you into an insufferable pain in the keyster.

#3 Don’t talk about details of the divorce in front of your kids. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard parents trying to justify X,Y, and Z by scapegoating a parent who isn’t in the room. Of course, sometimes it is necessary to divulge sensitive personal information to your child’s teacher. (Like when you’ve have to get a restraining order.) But it’s a good idea to send your kid out to the playground first.

An Amusing Day Care Teaching Story

In college I worked at a very hoity toity day care center on the north side of Berkeley which was run by a friend of my family. Because I was a part-time substitute, no one ever took the time to fill me in on the finer points of local etiquette.

One day I was supervising the sandbox during free play when a three-year-old boy smacked another kid over the head with a toy firetruck.

“Cut that out,” I insisted.

The offending child immediately stopped assaulting his playmate. He turned towards me and gave me a stern glare.

Cut that out is not nice, ” He instructed severely. “We don’t use words like the at the Child Education Center.”

I was taken aback by the rebuke, but I sensibly resisted the nearly overwhelming impulse to say, “Listen pal, we put people in jail for things like that.”

Richard W. Bray

Some Friendly Advice for Young Teachers in a World Poisoned by Power-Mad Bureaucrats and Clueless Billionaires

July 29, 2012

After I transferred from a junior high school to an elementary school, my former colleague Dave* asked how I liked working with my new colleague Walter*. (Both Dave and Walter were veteran teachers with decades of experience.) I reported how impressed I was by Walter’s remarkable patience and equanimity in response to a roomful of unruly kids. Dave smiled and said, “He wasn’t always that way.”

Years ago I heard former United States Secretary of Education (and raging hypocrite) Bill Bennett on CSPAN saying that the the best way to ensure quality schools in this country is to “hire good principals and allow them to do their job.” Oddly, Bennett and several other self–identified conservatives support intrusive (and blatantly unconstitutional) laws like Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) which inject the blunt, debilitating power of the federal government into the quotidian workings of local public schools across the county.

Before NCLB, for example, wise principals would often place a few of the more emotionally needy students at a particular grade level in the classroom of a more capable veteran teacher like Walter. (This practice is particularly advisable when one or more of Walter’s grade–level colleagues are newbies.) Such sagacious principals would constantly praise teachers like Walter for taking on this extra burden, and they would also grant Walter a little extra leeway as far as end–of–the–year test scores were concerned.

Today, however, thanks to an ill-conceived reform movement forced down our throats by ignorant billionaires and power-mad federal bureaucrats, principals no longer have such discretionary latitude. And experienced teachers like Walter who hope to hang onto their jobs would say this to a principal who wants to overload their classrooms with “challenging” students: “I’d like to help you, but the Secretary of Education wants to publish my students’ test scores in the paper and then punish me if those numbers don’t go up every year from now until the end of my career.” This is just one of many unintended consequences which result when education policy is devised by people like Bill Gates and Arne Duncan who don’t know shit from shinola about teaching.

Legendary college basketball coach John Wooden toiled at his craft for several years before suddenly winning ten championships during his final twelve seasons. When somebody asked him what happened he said, “I finally learned how to relax.”

It took me a while to figure out how to relax in the classroom. Watching teachers like Walter helped me learn that getting upset and raising my voice in response to unruly students only increases the rancor. It is actually more effective for a teacher to stop talking in mid-sentence and wait for the students to lower their voices than it is for him to try to overpower an entire classroom with displays of stentorian prowess.

The best advice I can give to young teachers is to relax, take your time, and learn from your mistakes. And don’t get into power struggles with your students. Never go to work in the morning full of vengeance over something that occurred the previous day thinking, “I’m gonna get that kid.” (Let it go, and never forget who the grownup is.) Endeavor always to treat all your students with kindness and respect under all circumstances knowing full well that this is a superhuman ideal, impossible to live up to.

A little respect goes a long way. I learned a lot on the occasions when I substitute taught at a “camp” school—camp is a euphemism for prison. Once when a student remained standing as I was preparing to start a lesson, I said in a firm but friendly voice, “Sir, would you please sit down.” He melted into his seat and turned to the kid next to him and said in a tone of bemused disbelief, “He called me sir.”

And as much as possible, try not to be too grumpy. It’s not always easy, but do your best. (And for all of you out there who would like to have a positive impact on America and her future, here’s something you can do to reduce teacher grumpiness—invite a teacher to bed some time. The world will be a better place for your kind work.)

* Not their real names

by Richard W. Bray

An Amusing Teacher Story: Tammy’s Puppy

June 22, 2012

Back in the days before substitute teaching assignments were given out by robocomputers, subs would call the early-rising sub-assigners during our lunch hour and beg for work.

One day the sub lady in Pomona granted me an after-lunch half-day assignment for the next afternoon. (Normally if a teacher can’t get a dentist appointment for the late afternoon, she schedules it for the morning and takes the day off. But some districts offer half-day substitutes.) This is usually a pretty good gig for the substitute, particularly in elementary school where most of the heavy lifting (Math and Language Arts) is done before lunch.

The teacher was sitting in the classroom reading her newspaper when I arrived during lunch. I said Hi and she gave me the lesson plans which consisted of a map and one sentence instructing me to walk the students several blocks to and from the theater located at the district office where there was going to a West African Talking Drums concert. This ought to be fun, I thought.

The teacher was out the door before I got a chance to ask her how many parent volunteers she had arranged for the trip. I soon discovered that the answer to that question was zero, and my day went downhill from there.

I picked up the kids from lunch recess, and thirty-two fifth graders and I embarked through the turbulent streets of Pomona, California towards the district office. Normally in such a situation I would put my best parent volunteer at the front of the line, and string the rest of the volunteers throughout the line as I took up the rear in order to encourage slowpokes.

But working alone I was forced to man the front of the line, stopping frequently whenever the students in the back straggled out of view. But we were making good time nonetheless, and I was looking forward to getting good seats for the show.

Suddenly there was a great commotion when a thirty-third soul joined our serpentine. As we walked past Tammy’s house, her puppy which had somehow gotten loose decided to tag along with us. Everyone but Tammy and I were thrilled by this addition to our group. So we all waited as Tammy knocked and knocked on her door, summoning a grandmother who did not answer. I asked Tammy if there were anything else she could do, such as leave the dog with a neighbor. But she just kept knocking on the door.

There was much merriment among the students as my aggravation rose. After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, I implored Tammy to think of something (anything!) that she could do to rid us of our little friend. “Well,” she said, “maybe I could tie him up in the backyard.” She hopped the locked gate and someone handed her the puppy. About ten minutes later she miraculously appeared sans puppy, and we were off.

We were the last group of students to arrive at the theater. I was greeted with dirty looks from several district officials. We had to squeeze into the remaining gaps at the back of the theater. Several of the students were objecting to being separated from their friends as the West African Drummers were filing down the aisle towards the stage.

I may have raised my voice a tad when I said, “Just sit down. Now!”

One of the West African ladies from the drum troupe looked up and asked, “Who is dis terrible man shouting at de cheeldren?

by Richard W. Bray

Rough Draft Peer Review WorkSheet and an Amusing Teacher Story

December 9, 2011


I have students bring two copies of their rough drafts. While the students are doing their peer reviews, I scan the other copy, looking at the structure of the essays rather than proofreading them. The students are free to proofread one another’s essays.


1. Turn in one copy of paper to instructor.
2. Take two Peer Review Worksheets.
3. Get into groups of 3-4 Students.
4. Take turns reading papers ALOUD to group.
5. Pass paper clockwise (or counterclockwise if you’re feeling rebellious).
6. Silently read another student’s paper and fill out worksheet.
7. Repeat steps 5 & 6.

Rough Draft Peer Review Sheet

Author: __________________________________________________


Paper Title:_______________________________________________

This paper is ______pages long (excluding Works Cited page)

This paper includes a Works Cited page in MLA format: Yes No

Thesis statement is in paragraph # _____

Copy thesis statement verbatim.

Two enlightening quotations from sources that the author utilized are:


Two notable sentences that the author composed are:


What is the paper’s strongest feature?

An Amusing Teacher Story

During a discussion about ESP, a student informed the class that he possessed a “sixth scent.” Miraculously, I resisted the temptation to say, “You’re telling me, buddy.” (Life rarely provides such a perfect straight line.)

by Richard W. Bray

A Strategy for Remembering the Difference between Primes and Composites and an Amusing Teacher Story (by Sig)

November 3, 2010

A Strategy for Remembering the Difference
between Primes and Composites

Subject: Prime and Composite numbers

Objective: To ensure that students who understand the concept of prime and composite numbers do not mix up the terms.

Whenever I taught prime and composite numbers I noticed that some students who understood the concept mixed up the terms. This misunderstanding caused them to miss all the problems when tested.

I came up with the mnemonic device that numbers are like people. Prime numbers are Picky People who only have one friend while composite numbers are folks who enjoy Company.

Reinforcement: I had the students do a skit in order to increase retention of the concept.

Evaluation: I made up a worksheet so each student could draw prime and composite numbers with their factor friends.

It was a fun lesson that made a nice bulletin board.

An Amusing Teacher Story

Here’s what happened one day when we were reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, our core literature novel:

In case you didn’t know, the characters in the story are personified mice and rats. It is a riveting story with several dramatic plot twists.

One morning as we were reading the novel aloud, a mouse—a REAL one—ran across the classroom in full view of the students. This was a very unusual occurrence in our suburban setting. The students were surprised and curious.

“Is that Mrs. NIMH?” they asked.

I smiled and calmly took the class outside to continue reading this wonderful book.

I couldn’t have planned it any better.

A Critical Thinking Story Evaluation Activity for High School Students and an Amusing Teacher Story (by Brian)

October 20, 2010

A lesson plan for a critical reading of The Interlopers by Saki

: High School English

Objective: Students will demonstrate higher order critical reading and reflection skills

Materials: a class set of The Interlopers, coloring markers, two-by-two sheets of butcher paper.


Students will read the story the night before and come to class with written responses to the following questions:

1) How did you connect personally to the story?
2) What questions would you like to ask the author and/or the characters?
3) What strategies did you utilize to clarify any segments of the story that were unclear to you?

Classroom Activity

a. Teacher groups students
b. Students in each group use their homework to come to a consensus on two statements for each category
c. Group leaders submit written proposals to the teacher who okays them and distributes butcher paper and markers to students
d. Students make posters containing a picture of the scene that best represents the theme of the story, a prediction based on the ending of the story, and the six answers generated from homework assignment


Groups present their posters explaining whether their clarifications, questions, and connections are inferences or evaluations in a question and answer session with the class.

Why I no longer Have Show-and-Tell on the Second day of Class

It was my second year teaching at the university and I had my students bring an item to the second class meeting that represented them, and I had them do a short presentation. Well “Carl” showed up with an old two liter bottle of coke that had been converted into a terrarium. I didn’t think much of it until he volunteered to go first.

He went up to the front of the class and opened up the bottle and reached inside and pulled out a rather large pet black-widow spider named Helen. He let it crawl on his hands, and I swear he even pet it. About this time, the entire class and I moved to the back of the classroom while a large man who had been sitting in front bolted out the door. Carl asked if anyone wanted to hold his “pet” –there were no takers.

I then attempted to walk up to the front and said, This is very nice, can you please put Helen back in her cage? He did without further incident, and the class then got back to normal. A few more people then decided to complete their presentations, and just as we were about to get to work for the evening, I heard a knock at the door and Victor, our large runner, was asking if the spider was gone.

(You can reach Brian at