Strange, surreal, and creepy things your teachers made you do

Today, for no reason at all, I had a flashback to a specific moment in seventh grade math class. After we had our lesson, the teacher passed out scantron sheets. They were already filled in. She explained to us that they belonged to the class after ours–the remedial class. We were to erase their answers and haphazardly bubble in different answers. Her rationale was that the selected answers were most likely incorrect, so our intervention could only improve their scores.

The thing about it was that I wasn’t in the honors class. I was in the “average” class. If she was giving us the remedial kids tests to play around with, was it possible that she was doing the same thing to ours, with another class?

While I was thinking about it today, it occurred to me that it was so strange that I could almost convince myself that it never happened, that it was all a dream. But I know it happened. In fact, I recall it happening at least twice. And I also remember not having any particular qualms about it. Only when I got into high school did it occur to me that what she’d done (or made us do) was really unethical.

Do you have a strange tale from school that you’d like to share?

That is so disturbing.

I also just wanted to say that I’ve been thinking about making a thread like this for a while now. You really read my mind by posting it yourself.

Here’s the moment that I was thinking about:

In middle school–sixth or seventh grade–our gym teacher decided that it would be a good idea to play indoor soccer. Sounds perfectly normal right? The catch? Blindfolded. (Seriously, it was like one of those Project Runway moments where they’re told they need to design a simple little black dress…oh, by the way, out of cotton swabs, used condoms and a match stick.)

We were paired off. One partner would be blindfolded and would go after the ball and the other would tell the blindfolded person where to go. I’m not sure how we kept up with each other. Scooters might have been involved, too…all I remember is getting a ball in the face at one point.

Typing this now, I’m wondering, were my gym teachers really that dim? And does this sound at all reasonable to anyone reading this?

Wow - that is scary.

I had a Spanish Language teacher in 4th grade who had the other kids in class count up any words you might have said in English during the class, and give her the totals at the end of the week. You had to pay a penny for every word you spoke in English.

4th graders can be really creative… one week I was sent home with a note that I owed something like $5 total - and this from a kid who NEVER opened her mouth in that class. Turns out the kid keeping the total didn’t like me.

My mom confronted the teacher who saw nothing wrong with the practice, and still insisted I had to pay - even though she acknowledged that I couldn’t possibly have spoken that much in any language in that class.

My mom pulled me out of Spanish.

What the hell, monstro? Very weird.

I had one teacher, in a high school until on alcohol and drug abuse (Summary: Bad!) who did the now-classic “50 True/False questions, every one of them True” for the final exam. Her reasoning was actually kind of cool: since her goal was to teach us how to be confident in the face of our friends offering us drugs, she gave us a test designed to make us feel doubt and uncertainty to see who would remain true to what they knew to be right.

But yeah, a very surreal experience. First 5 questions - hmm, this is pretty easy. 10 more - wait a minute. Down to 30 - this can’t be right! Everyone starts making furtive glances around the room, looking at her (hiding her face in a book), exchanging WTF looks. Very surreal.

Creepy and surreal: The high school biology teacher who gave extra credit to students who brought him fresh roadkill for his taxidermy. Several mangy birds appeared hanging from the ceiling over the course of the year.

Strange: The middle school chemistry teacher who was an incredible slacker. I think she’d give us about a half-hour’s work every week and the rest of the time she’d do things like read to us out of Mad Magazine. She was perfectly pleasant and genial, she just didn’t bother to teach us a damn thing. So we’d just sit there in the shiny lab and chat or read (It was a brand new school).

Surreal and Cheerful: The physics teacher (why is it always the scientists?) who gave a vocal concert on the last day of class. He had a trained voice and would stop early to sing show tunes and a rousing “God Bless America.”

I remember the punishment if you forgot to bring a winter hat for recess during cold weather was to stand against the wall. This wall was like recess detention. Basically, if Mrs. Hasenfratz caught you doing something naughty, you stood against the wall. The perverse thing is, why would you punish a kid for dressing inappropriately for the cold by making him/her stand around outside and get colder? Just put us in a room or something. Stupid Mrs. Hasenfratz.

I guess it’s not the worst thing in the world, but it still bothers me today.

Yeah, but you’re probably used to that by now.


When I was in 8th grade the teacher had a desk set aside in the back corner of the room between a bookcase and the wall that was reserved for kids who acted up in class. I talked too much according to the teacher and was sent to this “study corner” for a few weeks. Now picture this, if the teacher was in front of the class teaching I was turned perpendicular to her and facing the wall completely out of sight in the back corner. What was this supposed to do, make me goof off? That is exactly what I did. I sat there doodling on paper, drawing cartoons about the teacher on the bookcase, and not listening to anything the teacher said because I couldn’t even see her and could barely hear her from the back and was also behind a bookcase. I finally was allowed to sit in my old seat, the first day back I said hey to a friend from another class that walked in our classroom to take a make-up test and I was sent back to the corner. Wouldn’t it have made a lot more sense to just sit me in the front of the class or something?

I went to Catholic school grades 1 through 3.

First grade was the worst, because it was taught by nuns. If you did something wrong, they would grab you and shake you while your head lolled back and forth.

Every morning before lessons, we would have to stand at our desks and sing hymns for half an hour while the nun/teacher accompanied on this little electric organ.

Fine. You’re in Catholic school, you sing hymns.

But the weird thing was that while we sang, we had to do “praises” which meant swooping our arms in circles. Kind of like doing the breast stroke while standing up.

I felt stupid doing it.

In 6th or 7th grade, had a gym teacher who was really intense about team sports. When we played basketball or baseball or whatever, if you did something wrong, you had to run a lap around the gym (or some other course if we were outside). So, basically, we were punished for not knowing the rules to games that he never taught us. He just thought we’d have picked the rules up from watching them on TV.

Well, my parents didn’t watch any sports on TV, I did everything wrong, and so I spent every gym class just idly jogging around the perimeter of the gym. I still don’t know beans about any team sport, because due to his system, I never got to actually PLAY any of them.

I had a gym teacher in 6th grade named Mr. Ladner. He was a Vietnam vet and used to talk about his harrowing experiences. He also liked to play weird games, like the cockroach game. We’d all lay on our backs on the floor. He’d say, “Roaches up!” and we’d put our arms and legs up. Then he’d scream, “RAID!” And we’d all go, “Argh!”, shake our arms and legs, then fall over, dead. He’d laugh hysterically. He was a true madman. We liked him, though.

yep, this is something we had to do in Basic training at Ft. Knox in 1973.

I got no school stories.

One day about mid-semester of 8th grade I went into my first class, which was algebra, and the teacher had written on the board the lyrics to “Marshmallow World.” Instead of algebra, we learned how to sing this song. That was all we did, the whole class.

I thought she had lost her mind, but at least we were engaged in an activity that I could do, unlike algebra.

She had never done anything like this before, in any year that anyone could recollect. (That is, none of the 9th-graders.) She did this for the next class, too. In the afternoon, for some reason, she went back to teaching algebra.

monstro–do you by chance know if your class was perhaps changing the answers after they had been scanned and scored? I can see a math teacher doing something like that simply out of curiosity or an interest in probabilities–trying to pattern how much accuracy differed before and after the alterations. Although it’s still rather odd to have involved another class without explaining if that were the case.

When I was in the 11th grade - I went to a private boarding school - I got really sick over Christmas break. I was in the hospital over New Years’s and ended up coming back to school about a week after everyone else because of my illness. My first day or so back (I was still sick) I felt a tremendous sneeze coming on so I asked the boy sitting next to me to pass me a tissue.

I got sent to the office for talking in class.

I was not a big fan of the principal, nor was she a big fan of mine. I explained what had happened, she told me there was no excuse for talking in class, and as punishment assigned me to sweep sidewalks. Outside. In January. In what passes for snow in North Georgia.

I refused. She informed me that I would do what she told me to do. I told her that I would call my mother. As I turned around to leave her office to use the phone on her secretaries desk, she grabbed me by the hair and snatched me back.

My fist missed her (very large hooked) nose by about an inch. She laughed and told me I had just gotten myself kicked out of school. I said “wonderful” and walked back to the dorm to pack.

About an hour later, the Director of Dorm Life came in and told me to unpack - HHH wanted me kicked out but the others wouldn’t agree. I had extra work for swinging at her, and that ugly bitch made my life miserable for the next year and a half until I graduated.

I mean, send someone just out of the hospital into the snow?

I had a teacher who really liked food. Now, this was often good for us, as she might make popcorn for math class or something like that. But over the two years she was my teacher I was offered moldy donuts and cake from the same fork. And I have to wonder about that time she brought a HUGE tub of peach yogurt and asked us if we wanted it because she hates peach. I dunno, I’d just think if you were going to buy the large size you’d double check or something.

The way she explained it was that we were helping the “slower” kids by upping their scores. It’s like it never occurred to her that we could have been making their scores lower–especially if it had been a test they’d studied for. And it’s not like they never received those scantrons. I guess she assumed they didn’t care enough to notice all the mysterious erasures.

The strangest thing is that she was actually a great teacher, one of my favorites. Once, she let me take a test over again, without me even asking, because I had done unusually bad on it. Maybe she’d just lost faith in her ability to reach the remedial kids or something.

That reminds me of what happened in seventh grade social studies. One day, instead of having the usual geography lesson, the teacher gave us crayons and blank pieces of paper and told us we could spend the hour drawing anything we wanted. Meanwhile, she sat at her desk and read a novel. I was so freaked out that I covered my paper in nonsensical orange scribbles. I kept asking why she was mad at us. My classmates were glad about the free day, but I felt like she had lost her mind.

Here’s something that pissed me off.

About the second week into my freshman year in high school, they called all the ‘african-american’ freshmen into a classroom to talk to us about following the rules. I can’t remember if they had all the black girls into a separate room.

I just sat there dumbfounded because I was a very well behaved student. I’d do stupid stuff not because I was bad, but just because I’m an idiot.

So yeah, in retrospect I should have just walked out of the classroom and told the dean to fuck off.

Well, it wasn’t all that bizarre, but it WAS kinda surreal. When I went to grade school on a naval air base in Keflavik, Iceland a few years ago (OK, quite a few) our school was a series of quonset huts. And we were told “Don’t play in the minefield at recess.” Because there was abandoned mine field, right next to the school.

Man, it was irresistable. I mean, there might be mines! But also very surreal, situating an elementary school next to a mine field.

Also, when I was in high school (some time later) they had a rule where if a teacher or principal thought a girl’s skirt too short, she hand to kneel in front of the teacher. If her skirt didn’t reach the floor, it was too short. I saw this happen. Even as a kid it seemed real oral-sexy to me and a pretty durned weird thing to have girls do in school.

I had the craziest high school physics teacher EVER! His room was littered with teetery wooden shelves from from strapping, each one packed to the brim with old electronics, like TVs, large banks of 8" tall capacitors, broken oscilloscopes, compouters, random wires everywhere. In a demonstration of force and pressure, he would hit a TV with the large end of a hammer, and we’d see that it dented and cracked the glass, then he hit it with the claw end and we watched as it broke through the glass and heard the large “POP” from the vacuum in the tube. He would place two large drywall screws into a pickle, take the stripped end of an old lamp plug and wrap the wires around the screws. He then plugged it into the wall and the pickle lit up. No fuses, no insulation around the screws. Oh, and the pickle was on the table about a foot from us.

The highlight of the year was always the “physics war.” We got into teams of 2-4, each team built a cannon out of wood and a length of PVC pipe, and cut slits in the side of the pipe and made a plunger type of thing in the pipe so it could hold and shoot out a tennis ball. The plunger was attached to lengths of surgical tubing. We all test fired our guns on the track to see who could launch the tennis balls the furthest (prior to this, we all did “calibration” of our guns by launching them at intervals of 5 degrees and marking the distance. IT was all part of learning about trajectory and all that jazz.) Whoever got the furthest got first pick of what country the wanted to be for the “war” the next day. Each country got a certain prize with it. America, being so rich and having a powerful military, got a few pizzas for the team and lots of tennis balls. Columbia got lots of “coke” (heh), France got a shit ton of tennis balls, since they have lots of Nukes, etc…The teams that sucked got the countries without a lot of money and supplies. Then, the next day, we all went to the soccer field, and SHOT TENNIS BALLS AT EACH OTHER. These things must have been going over 100 MPH, easily. We all took balls to the chest, arms, face, etc…The only safety requirements were a helmet and safety goggles. We even used “chemical weapons” by dropping some balls into paint. We had coffee cans labels with what supplies we had, and if you hit someone’s cans, you got their supplies when the war was over (lunchtime, so as best to maximize the pizza.)

I went to high school during the height of the high school shootings (Columbine was at the end of my junior yeah, the “war” was in the fall.) We still shot tennis balls at each other, though I hear they did eventually switch to not aiming at people, and only the cans, then they went to shooting jello instead of tennis balls (didn’t work, the jello just broke up in the air,) and I think it’s gone now.

My 9th grade biology teacher used to come in every morning and toast his English muffin on the Bunsen burner.

In retrospect, it seems the only time he got really excited in class was when it was time to dissect something. “Guess what, kids! I just got in a new shipment of 24 formaldehyde-preserved pig fetuses! Get your scalpels!”