“Teachers of Reddit with Former Students Returning to Visit You, What’s the Most Unexpected Thing They’ve Told You?”

On 13 November 2014, Redditor SeaOttaSlaughta asked, “Teachers of Reddit with former students returning to visit you, what’s the most unexpected thing they’ve told you?” Here are some replies:

1) Anastik wrote, “I’ve taught in the military for many years, and I substitute teach in my time off in local schools around town. I absolutely love teaching. It’s so much fun to go into a class and not know what you’re getting into. And when you’re substitute teaching, you have to try and figure out how to connect with a random group of kids. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but more often than not I succeed. I hope to be a ‘real teacher’ when I retire in a few years from the military.

“Anyways, this story is about one of my students when I started teaching in the military. I’ll call him Cornhusker. Cornhusker was a student I had in my first year of teaching. I always remember that he had a big smile on his face and he’d do these awesome Yoda or George Bush impressions to lighten the class up. Having a person like this in your classroom is always a joy. He was a great guy, and he and I continued to talk and correspond after he graduated the class. I ended up starting a public speaking group on the base and he was one of the members who always came out to the events and supported everything we did.

“And as I was doing all this stuff on the side, I was still teaching ten-twelve hours a day when you count lesson preparation. I was getting worn out. I gave a lot of myself to each class and this can be emotionally exhausting work. My old boss, kind of like the school principal, once told me that he was worried about my health because I put so much of myself out there, and as a teacher you rarely get that back in return from the students. I didn’t really know what he meant at the time, but as the years went on I began to understand what he meant. You empty so much of yourself in each class that it can be hard when that isn’t reciprocated or noticed by anyone. It can make you tired and jaded.

“Well, this good boss ended up leaving the school and we got a new boss in his place. She said she wasn’t going to change anything (note to self: whenever someone says they aren’t going to change something, that means they’re going to change everything). It was a nightmare working for her. She was an obsessive micromanager. She was able to get results, but only by grinding her people down to the bone. But she was able to mind control you in the same way that a psychologically abusive mother can control her children. I promise you this story is leading somewhere.

“This woman started to take it out of me and through a combination of always putting myself out there and never getting anything back in return, I started to dislike teaching. The new boss and I got into a huge fight, and I started to question my self-worth and what I was doing as a teacher in the military. But totally out of the blue and without any prompting from me, I got an email from Cornhusker that very day in the afternoon.

“He said that it was obvious that I put myself out there and tried my best to make all my students and everyone around me better people. He said that I was always building people up, but he didn’t think that people were ever thanking me for what I did. It was the most perfectly timed email and one I still treasure to this day. He then proceeds to write two pages of the nicest compliments I’d ever read. I was floored. Stunned. It was like the gods of karma told him to send me that message so it could keep me going. And it did.

“I kept teaching the way I wanted to and more and more of my old students started sending me random messages telling me how much they appreciated me as an instructor. And in the moment when I most questioned my abilities, Cornhusker managed to bring me up when I most needed it.

“I think these random acts of kindness happen far too infrequently. So I always make it a point after I’ve read a good story or article to message the author and tell them why I enjoyed it; if I listen to an unknown band and really dig their music, I’ll shoot them an email on Facebook; and it’s all because Cornhusker taught me how powerful a nice message from someone can improve your disposition and keep you going even when the times are tough.”

2) MrsB555 wrote, “I have been a substitute teacher for the same school district for the past 8 years. Four years ago, I had taken over for a 5th grade teacher with cancer, from Nov to the last day of school. The teacher ended up passing away that April … so sad.

Well, when I went up to the middle school while these kids were in 7th grade, a student from that 5th grade class came up to me.

“Student: ‘Hey Mrs. B! I just wanted to let you know that you letting us do free writing in the beginning of each day has really made me love creative writing. I’m going to write a book someday!’ Me: ‘Awe, I’m so glad you enjoyed that time. Make sure you dedicate your first book to me!’ (or something like that).

“As just a substitute, this was pretty amazing for me. It made me feel good that I was someone’s inspiration without actually having my own classroom.”

3) SunDevilJeeper wrote, “I was a class clown and always f[**]ked off, but I listened to my teachers and treated them with respect. When they told me to settle down, I didn’t give any more problems after that. So I was cool with a lot of teachers, they went the extra mile to help me when I was struggling. They gave me a lot of encouragement which helped a lot. Fast forward a couple years after graduation, I decided to come back wearing my uniform that my teachers knew I wanted to wear so much. I stop at the doorway wearing my cammies and I watched utter chaos while my former English teacher tried to manage it. He stopped and froze when he saw me, his face lit up life a little kid. Then the whole class turns around and goes silent, pin drop silent. I felt like a bad[*]ss making a whole class go silent without even saying a word. I walked in and ended up shooting the sh[*]t with him for a few hours. I don’t think I had ever seen him smile that much before. That was one of those moments that I realized that I actually did have a lot of support behind me, and it wasn’t just people blowing hot air in my face. To this day, I still think he’s the best teacher I ever had. The jovial fat guy who had a hot temper if you pissed him off. Lay down the law when needed, but be a friend and mentor to the ones he teaches. I’ll never forget him for as long as I live. He made learning a fun thing for me, probably the best motivator I ever had.”

4) LaWeege wrote, “[…] I was the student who went back to visit my guidance counselor. Senior year, I had a complete mental breakdown. (Later found out my parents almost institutionalized me … yikes!) Went to her office one morning, because I felt like my life was falling apart.

“This June, I brought her my transcript. I’m graduating summa cum laude with a degree in cellular and molecular biology with a minor in chemistry come this December, and I applied to medical school. I had made it after all. She cried.

“I found out she’s been using me as an example for struggling seniors now. Makes me proud.”

For More Information: SeaOttaSlaughta, “Teachers of Reddit with former students returning to visit you, what’s the most unexpected thing they’ve told you?” Reddit. 13 November 2014


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