Teachers sometimes have the hard job of playing both educator and parent. Every day they see hundreds of young faces coming in and out of their classrooms, not knowing what type of tragedy and depression they are walking in with. We would all like to believe every child goes home to a loving family and a bed to sleep on. Unfortunately, that's not the case for the students of these teachers.
We took to Reddit to find the stories of teachers who discovered devastating truths about their students. You will find a new appreciation for having even the most basic things in your life that these students were tragically deprived of. Essentially, prepare yourself for having all the feels...
Don't forget to check the comment section below the article for more interesting stories!
I knew she was in the foster care system, but one day she poured her story out to me. The year before, her mother told her she was sick and took her to the hospital. She said she was confused because she only had a cold, but figured her mom was just over-reacting. Her mom legally abandoned her when hey got there. She got her checked into a room and left without saying goodbye.
That poor sweet girl got left at a hospital at 13 years old, while the mom kept her younger sisters. How do you ever overcome that?!
I had a guitar student who played the biggest pile of junk guitar ever made. It was one of those classical student guitars they handed out to school kids in the 70's. He refused to get another one. The action (string height from fingerboard) was about an inch at the lowest, and the top was collapsing, making it virtually unplayable in its current form. I tried multiple times to set it up or alter it so it would play better but he wouldn't allow anything to be changed. He was very protective of this guitar.
Thinking he was poor and couldn't afford a new guitar, I tried to show him the cheapest new or even used guitars that would be so much better to practice with. He wasn't interested in any other guitar. I also offered to give him a guitar, free. Anything would be better than this unplayable piece of rotting wood he was banging on.
One day, after I am yet again begging him to try out this other guitar, he comes clean with me. He tells me his mom died two years ago, and she had that guitar sitting by her. She was trying to play guitar to take her mind off her illness as she was dying.
A girl with exceptional talent at the piano reached a point where she couldn't focus on the notes due to vision problems. I asked her when she'd last been to the eye doctor. She said her parents couldn't afford it and had no insurance due to unemployment. I offered to pay for a visit to my eye doctor, to which her parents gratefully agreed. The exam revealed that she had glaucoma and was suffering vision loss because of damage to the optic nerve.
One of my favorite students from when I used to teach told me this and then showed me a news article.
They lived in California with her mom and stepdad. The stepdad was romantically abusing the girl and videotaping it. The mom found out and confronted him. After an argument, the guy ended the life of the mom and continued to romantically abuse the girl.
She moved to Texas with her dad, who was a tyrant and had to control everything she did. Sad life. Luckily she got out of there and is now happily married and doing well.
A rather bright and capable girl in one of my 10th-grade classes purposely got pregnant by her criminal boyfriend in a pathetic attempt to keep him. He was 19 and is currently in jail on illegal substance charges while she's pregnant in high school.
One of my best students in a general chemistry class was living in his car because he was disowned by his parents when they found out he was gay. He ended up sleeping on my couch and another instructor's sofa for a month while we sorted out his financial aid and got him into student housing.
I have a boy in my class. He’s super sweet but is extremely quiet. A majority of the students in my school have super loud personalities, so he stands out like a sore thumb. We had an assignment where the students were writing about what they learned in Super Kids. (Which is essentially D.A.R.E. with more info on internet safety, adult beverages, and bullying.)
He chose his topic on bullying and mentioned to another student that he felt like ending his life because he had been bullied for years by a lot of other kids. Thankfully that student told me so I could contact everyone possible to make sure he received all the help he needs.
This student is in 5th grade, is one of my top three students, and doesn’t have a bad bone in his body. Kids are horrible, and it breaks my heart to see this sort of thing coming from the voice of one of my sweetest students.
I had a student who was going to a protest march against the perennially corrupt government in Brazil, so his father ran him down in the street and ended his life before he could make it there. Then the coward ended his own life with his son in his arms.
He was a good idealistic young man and deserved much better.
I saw a student with a bag of white powder in her bag. I was a first-year teacher and wasn't sure what to do. I figured it wasn't illegal substances. It was a large bag and there was no way a ninth grader had 1/2 a kilo of illegal substances. I asked her about it. It was cornstarch. She was eating straight cornstarch because she was hungry.
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I'm a preschool teacher, but this breaks my heart. At my first preschool, in 2013, there was this little boy that none of the other teachers could handle. He was about two, and he was in my very first class. The child was always high strung. Full of energy and running around. We attributed this to him lacking stability in his life, bouncing around from him living with his aunt and uncle, then grandparents, then dad. The mom wasn't in the picture; we were told she was arrested for illegal substances. And then one day he disappeared; he was gone. My director called his aunt weekly for a month, before just taking him off the roster. I was devastated.
Well, six months later he comes back and is an entirely different child. Dark circles under his eyes, quiet. He didn't even seem to remember me. On his first day back he accidentally knocked a little girl down while running and when she started crying he became petrified. He sat under a table and stared at me without moving at all. I asked his aunt about it that night, and she told me the reason he disappeared is that his mother came home and got custody. They hadn't seen him in almost as long as I had. She had seemed to be doing okay until a neighbor had called the cops for suspected domestic abuse, and when they arrived, she was in the kitchen with a weapon, threatening to end the little boy's life. I don't think I go a day without remembering this.
I once had a student that was very disruptive. He would make any random noise to get a rise out of teachers. The funny thing was, he would act very remorseful once he was redirected, but it was starting to get annoying.
He made friends with another teacher's grandson and would hang out at her house on occasion. It became almost daily. The teacher became close with him, and it was revealed that their father emotionally neglects he and his brother.
His father had a new girlfriend, and they had a baby. It turns out, his new girlfriend didn't care for his kids and wanted him to focus on his "new family." The dad was eager to please, so he banned the kids from being around them. Poor kid just wanted someone to pay attention to him.
I run a little after-school program for elementary school kids on improvisation. Since they're so young (usually 1st to 3rd grade), we play theater games and make-believe, and they seem to enjoy it.
This one 8-year-old, we'll call him Chester, has very alarming reactions to what he perceives as a failure. Multiple times a class I'll blatantly say, "Okay everyone, please stop talking and listen,” and Chester will be on the verge of/in tears every time and cry, "but I wasn't even talking!" (As if I had been staring him in the eyes as I said it). Whether he was talking or not, he feels personally attacked it seems.
Another time we were playing a game that involved them freezing in different poses, and I'll lead them along and remind them to stay as still as possible. Out of nowhere, Chester storms off and sits in the corner, already in tears. I ask him whats wrong, and he blurts "I failed! I couldn't stay still, and I need to be punished." It took about 5 minutes of explaining it's all part of the game; no one can stay still, no one fails anything in this class, to get him back with the rest of the group. It's heartbreaking to have to argue with a child and convince him that he's not bad or wrong.
I teach at an art studio. Two new pupils had signed up for a course. Their mother explains to me that they don't speak Dutch yet because they fled from Egypt during the Arab Spring. They came to the Netherlands because they already had family living here. The two girls behaved perfectly every week and even learned a few Dutch words. One of the first things the oldest told me in Dutch was her father doesn't live anymore. I was worried that she might've confused some words. However, after class, the mother confirmed their father was trampled during a violent protest.
I work at a school for children with learning disabilities. One of my students has autism, and while I’m not sure if that plays a role in this story, I feel I should include it.
We were coming in for recess one day, and this little boy (1st grader) decided to run to the door. On our porch, there’s a small trampoline we have to let energetic kids get out some energy if they are too distracted during a lesson. So while I told him not to run he continued and stepped on the side of this little trampoline which came off the ground throwing him off balance. He took a pretty nasty fall straight to his knee which looked incredibly painful. I was positive this was going to result in him hysterically crying and rightfully so because I winced at the thought of doing that myself.
Well, when I kneeled down next to him and asked if he was okay, he didn’t cry and just said yes. He was apparently in pain and was dragging himself into my arms and another teacher's while fighting off crying with everything he had. I immediately felt heartbroken and told him it’s okay to cry when you fall and hurt yourself. He got over it fairly quickly and limped into class. I was incredibly confused and wanted some answers. I asked the other teachers in my class why this little guy did that and they said they didn't know. Well, I remembered the teacher working next door had taught this kid before and decided I’d ask her. She told me he was raised in an orphanage in China, and that there were so many kids there that he didn’t learn to cry when he needed something like food or if he got hurt.
Needless to say, now I have an entirely new perspective on this kid that I hadn’t had before.
In a freshman class, I had a student who came to the U.S. as a refugee child. I was talking to her after class, and she told me all of her family except her father had escaped at the same time. "What about your father?" I asked. "The rebels caught him and ate him," she answered. I had no idea what to say to that.
When I was teaching primary school in China, one of my students in K2 (about eight years old) was a bright, chirpy little girl always in a good mood. And then one day it stopped. She didn't talk and was sad every day. She sat by herself and had no friends. After a couple of weeks of this, I found out her mom went into the hospital for an operation and did not make it out.
I knew something was up when one of my student's attitudes in class changed completely. When we were working on a writing assignment based on a family picture, he revealed in his story that his mom had been deported. He was sleeping on different couches each week because there was no one to take him in.
A little girl, let’s call her Sarah, lives with her great aunt, so we knew something happened to her family. One day another teacher gives them a prompt to write about their family. She gets upset halfway through and starts going on about how she wants to talk to her mom, and no one will let her.
I find out from the aunt that the mom gave her up and doesn’t want her but kept her other children. We always suspected her mom was on illegal substances because Sarah is blind and has cognitive issues. The mom's kids were taken away by child protective services before but when she got custody again she decided Sarah was too much work and stopped contact. She’s not allowed to talk to her siblings as well. To top it off, the great aunt's health isn’t well, and when she dies there will be nowhere for her to go. It breaks my heart, so I try to give her the best experience she can have while she’s in my class.
A friend of mine is a teacher. He has a student who is smart, possibly borderline genius. When the kid tries he gets near perfect scores on everything with far less effort than any other student. Unfortunately, the kid doesn't try, and in some cases, the kid purposely does badly. Like he will sit there with a test in front of him and won't answer a single question, or he will answer several questions correctly then stop and refuse to finish. None of his teachers can figure out why he won't try; several have even given up. The kid has a bright future, but he's throwing it away one day at a time.
I had a kid in my study hall who hid her pregnancy for months. She delivered in secret and couldn’t deal with breaking the news to her parents, so she had a couple of her classmates help her get rid of the baby.
This is one reason I don’t teach anymore
About five years ago in my 10th grade English class, one of the best students I've ever had the honor of teaching, came to class horribly beaten up. He was over an hour early and just slowly walked to his seat and sat there quietly.
I sat next to him begging him to tell me what happened. He did, but I wish he hadn't. His dad found out that my student was gay, and decided that no son of his would be (or could be) gay. So he decided to beat the gayness out of him. He beat him to a pulp. Two black eyes, a broken nose, broken ribs, and numerous cuts and bruises.
I didn't let him finish. I didn't want to know what else he had endured. I called the cops. An ambulance was sent for my student. They found the dad at work (he was an elementary school teacher), teaching his class like it was just another typical Monday.
It took everything I had to keep from going there and running him over with my car. Thankfully, his mom wasn't as controlled as I was. She tried ripping her husband's head off at the police station. It took four cops to get her off of him - she's about 5'2, 90-100 lbs while he's approximately 6'2, 250 pounds. After she walked out of that station, she went home and burned every single one of his things in the fireplace.
I'm glad to say my student made a full recovery. He, along with his mom and siblings, spend all the holidays with us.
I used to volunteer to teach at this heavily subsidized pre-school in Singapore during my gap year. On my last day, I bought everyone snacks, and we had a mini party with the kids and their parents at the end of the day. Naturally, we all took loads of photos. One of the moms hesitatingly approached me, and at first, I thought she was going to tell me she wasn't comfortable with me taking the pictures and wanted me to delete the ones with her kids.
Instead, she shyly asked me, "Is it okay if you email me one picture of my kids? I can't afford a camera, so I don't have a single picture of them." Singapore's such a crazy expensive place to live in and the government pushes the "we're all middle class" ideal that it can seem like poverty doesn't exist there. That experience was eye-opening.
I once had a student who did not work and failed the quarter. When I told him his mother would have to come in to discuss the issue, he BEGGED me not to call her. I’ve had this happen hundreds of times, but this kid was beyond the usual degree of upset - he was physically shaking. I spoke to him privately after school when he told me that for punishment his mother would fill a sheet pan with uncooked rice, put it in the oven for awhile, then make him kneel on the burning hot, uncooked rice.
I spent time as a child mentor at a facility that treated children with behavioral problems. We received a child in who would undoubtedly dare to have screaming matches with you or test out extended silent treatments on staff. Clearly, not severe like other cases but they could use a little help. They were bright, loved football and nature. Endlessly, they would talk about working on their treatment so that they could one day return home. What I soon realized was this was not a possibility. They and their sibling were adopted very young, but from the beginning, it sounds like this child acted out in response to being treated poorly compared to their sibling.
The difference between the children was that one was born with a common deformity while the beloved sibling, on the other hand, was not. After weeks of realizing that this child was making progress fast in their treatment, I became hopeful for them, until I heard the parents in a private meeting assert they never wanted the child to come home. The deformity annoyed them, and unlike the sibling, they would never welcome the child back and they intended to keep the child institutionalized until adulthood when they were no longer responsible for it. Of course, this information wasn't for the child to hear, so who knows if they endlessly pined for their parent's love never knowing it wasn't possible.
I had a student a few years ago who was new to the U.S. from Mexico and spoke no English. I learned from another staff member that the previous summer, she and her mom crossed the border illegally and literally walked through the desert to get to family that was already here. Sadly, her mother died in the desert and this 12-year-old girl had to leave her mom's body behind and continue on her own. She made it to her family and lives with relatives now. I just can't imagine the agony of such an experience.
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