A good teacher is not someone who is only worried about the student’s academics. Instead, it’s someone who tries to set students up for success in other parts of life as well. Probably, that’s why teachers and their pep talks were so popular before TED Talks.
Recently, a Reddit user u/absolutejuice22 asked the r/AskReddit community, “What is something a high school teacher told you that you will never forget?” After this question was posted, several people shared their experiences.
If you also have any similar experiences, feel free to add your own in the comments.
Called me out of English my senior year to chat in the hall just to “check on me and how I was doing.”
I had planned to head to the girls room after that class with a purse full of pills to kill myself.
That one act of “being seen” changed the entire direction of my life.
I’m in my 40s now and run a nonprofit that works with our school to provide food, clothes, school supplies, Christmas gifts, prom dresses, testing fees… Pretty much anything a student might lack that takes their focus off being the best them they can be? We work to meet it.
I have four teens and a dozen more of their friends who view our house as their second home and safe space when things are rough at home.
Mr. Williams, you were an angel and your impact has touched hundreds of kids because you showed me the value of helping kids know they matter.
Class camp, we’re out walking a trail to the next campsite, carrying our lives in our packs. I was not in great physical shape and was well back in the rear. So it’s basically just me and one teacher to make sure no one fell too far back.
We came to a part where a branch had fallen across the trail. Big enough to be an effort to move it but not so large that it couldn’t have been moved by any of the thirty+ other students and teachers that had already walked around it.
Without even thinking about it, I grabbed the branch and tossed it to the side of the path.
The teacher said to me: “Thirty boys walked past that branch. It took one man to move it, and he made life easier for every person after him.”
It became a personal motto, of sorts: “Make it easier for the people who come after you.” Although when you do a good job, the person who comes after you is usually also you.
I’m a lesbian, and in my high-school ROTC class, I accidentally came out to everyone during class (long story). It was really awkward, and at the end of class, our drill sergeant teacher asked me to stay for a moment.
I stayed, and I was like 2 seconds away from bursting into tears (thought he was going to say that I was oversharing, or being inappropriate, etc), only to have this teacher tell me “What you said today was really brave. If anyone gives you any sh*t for it, come tell me and I’ll take care of it.”
This guy was a real hard-ass, so for someone like him to support me? It meant the world to me.
On 9/11, while classes were all but canceled, most teachers just rolled in tv’s and left the news on. Not Jim R. He got up and lectured, to the groans of students. He talked about the effects this would have on the economy, our politics, our culture and society. And he was right. In somewhat broad strokes, of course. But this was literally hours after the towers collapsed. When so much was still unknown, frightening and tragic. It really gave me what I would consider a solid base of understanding the things that would come in the next decade.
He talked about how traveling would change with restrictive security measures, how politics would take advantage of ‘terrorism’, how the wars we will engage will be paid for by my generation, my kids generation and so on. He talked about how racism will spike toward middle eastern peoples out of anger and fear and how that is totally wrong. As a vet and former cop, he cautioned us to not join the military while emotions ran high and a sense of patriotism was thick in our veins.
It was a gift. As the years went on, wmd’s, the iraq war, tsa, department of homeland security all came about, I felt like I already knew. I will never forget that fourth period class.
My music teacher used to tell me that before you could break the rules, you had to understand them.
I was having a particularly bad year in high school emotionally and my grades were starting to reflect it, so my dad went in for parent-teacher conference day. When he got to my orchestra director, he bluntly told my dad that I was brilliant. When my dad just kind of shrugged it off, like okay yeah he’s a smart kid I guess, the director looked him in the eye and said, “No, you don’t understand,” and proceeded to lecture to him about me.
I heard this secondhand from my dad and then talked to my director about it afterwards. His words and his faith in me have stuck with me all my life. I’m now finishing up a PhD in mathematical physics.
I had an English teacher my freshman year of highschool who was one of the RARE adults that treated all of his students with respect while at the same time challenging us to do better.
I distinctly remember him telling our class
You are not as mature as you think you are, but you are more mature than your parents give you credit for
He also told us about an agreement/rule he had with his own kids. He understood how hard it was for kids to do the right thing in the face of peer pressure. So he had told his kids that if they were ever in a situation (underage drinking, drugs, whatever) where they knew they shouldn’t be, they could call and using an previously agreed upon codeword that was banal and unsuspicious, he would know he needed to go get them and be ‘the bad guy’. He would show up, “Uncle Buck” style and get them out of wherever they were. This would allow them to save face with their friends and there would be no consequences for being the situation in the first place.
In my childhood only one person ever tackled my mother about her abuse of me and my siblings. It was parents day and my b**ch of a mother, as usual, turned up to take the credit for my being top of the class again. At one point there was just me, my **** b**ch of a mother, and Mrs. Soames (physics teacher) in the lab. Mrs Soames quite calmly challenged her, saying “Mrs xxxxx, why do you treat [Tomsdottir] the way you do? She’s a good girl and doesn’t deserve it.”
To my astonishment, my evil b**ch of a mother was speechless. No-one had ever confronted her before and she just didn’t know where to put herself.
It was easy for the other teachers and pupils to make snide, patronising remarks about this cow to me. A 13 year old girl isn’t in a position to do anything about it, and I’m guessing they were trying to ease their consciences about the fact that they were too cowardly to intervene.
But Mrs Soames has been a role model for me ever since, and an unforgettable example of those people brave enough to tackle a bully in the presence of their victim. To have someone stand by you when you are vulnerable, and make their support for you clear – I can’t tell you how that changed my view of other people.
2005 a teacher said intelligence of the future will not be defined by how well you know one skill but instead how well you can find information and decipher what information is good and bad.
“Leave your verbal guns at the door.”
This was the HS football coach’s first words teaching sex ed at my high school. He used the metaphor of the old American west where cowboys would leave their guns at the door when they entered a saloon to drink so nobody would get killed in a drunken outburst. He said we’d talk about a lot of topics that might make us feel uncomfortable and tempted to make a joke at someone else’s expense to break the tension. He asked us to leave our ‘verbal guns’ at the door so everyone could feel comfortable asking honest questions.
This was back in the late eighties. He was way ahead of his time.
My high school biology teacher, on the end of every quiz or exam, would put a giveaway point question. The question was always the same: Science is: A- Exciting, B- Interesting, C- A Challenge, D- All of the above. No matter which you marked you got the point. However, since this was on every exam, the saying was sand blasted into my long term memory. This led to me always somehow muttering this whenever I was taking an exam in University (substituting the word science with whatever necessary). Then it led to me muttering it whenever I was dealing with something stressful. Now it has become a fall back whenever I run into a life roadblock and everything is simply designated A- Exciting, B- Interesting, C- A Challenge, D- All of the above. It’s simple but it helps keep me from being too negative.
A teacher of mine said he would write me a letter of recommendation, but it had been a week or so and he hadn’t gotten back to me yet. I went in a 3rd time to remind him and I started off with an apology, to which he corrected me, saying “don’t ever stop advocating for yourself”
It’s advice I haven’t forgotten since.
Struggled with dyslexia and a learning disability my whole life. English class was hell for me every year. Senior year my lit teacher read some short story that was required of me and said, “What the f**k are you doing here. You are starting in my AP Lit class starting tomorrow.” I passed the AP test and my entire life really began because he believed in me. I’m now a high school teacher, and while not as great as him, really think I’m doing good work.
Pay attention to what you pay attention to.
My partner had a high school teacher that would walk through the busy hallways at school shouting “HOT COFFEE, HOT COFFEE” while holding an empty mug. He just wanted people to get out of his way and it always worked.
Coming up to our final year 12 exams, my maths teacher handed out an article on the most common things people said on their deathbed. She said no one wished they had worked longer hours; that they had spent more time at work than with their loved ones. If we didn’t get the grades we wanted, that’s okay, because there’ll be a back doors to where we wanted to go. Failure is okay. It’s only a minor setback. What’s important is having a good balance between work/studies, family/friends and our own hobbies/interest.
When I was a freshman in high school, my biology teacher was talking about extinction and plagues and stuff. So I ask him like why haven’t we had another plague and he said that as a species we were remarkably over due for a plaque as the last one was 100 years ago. This was in 2016 and for the rest of high school I would repeat this fact and tell everyone not to be shocked when it happened. My senior year I was right
“We’re all trying to figure it out, at any age. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. ”
Reminds me of when one of my favorite teachers was retiring. I tracked him down and tried, with poor results, to tell him I’d miss him. He understood my bumbling speech enough. He gave me a big hug, took me by the shoulders, looked me right in the eye and said with a stern but kindly tone “you keep doing good, okay?” I sure hope I’ve lived up to my promise to him.
If you’re ever living in poverty a block of cheese and a loaf of bread can feed you for days.
My chemistry teacher told my mom that I would do so much better if I asked questions. I’ve found that this is true in all stages of life. Ask questions!
Was in the 90s, my political thought teacher “Never document your deviance”
Whenever my teacher said anything controversial that he didn’t want repeated, he would preface it with ‘Don’t quote me on this because I’ll just deny it.’ I still use that.
My music teacher when I spent a large length of time skipping school due to various reasons. She had phoned me after spending hours tracking a way to contact me because she was worried.
“I’m not phoning to tell you off, i’m phoning to make sure you’re okay. You don’t have to go to the classes you don’t like, your exam is on wed and im phoning to let you know, no matter what I know that you’d still be practicing because youre a bright student and I know you’ll go far no matter what you choose to do”
My English teacher in grade 6 put “A” and “LOT”on 2 separate pieces of paper and taped them to opposite walls on the classroom. Then she got a student to run from “A” to “LOT” while yelling with them “AAAAAAAAA” * gets to other side* “LOOOOOOOTTTT” to teach us that they were separate and that ‘alot’ is incorrect. I have never forgotten and can still picture it as if it were yesterday it’s been 12 years
My highschool baseball coach / Sociology teacher always used to say ‘Those who are prepared create their own luck’ before exams.
This is a true life lesson.
That I wasn’t stupid, just lazy. Changed my life.
My freshman year history teacher told us first day of school about how he went to college with Bill Gates. Said he was one of the people that Bill asked to invest in his start up. He had declined.
“And here I am…teaching history class to high schoolers”
Our high school chemistry teacher said:
“Remember – a warm test tube or Bunsen burner are no substitutes for a satisfying relationship.”
My favorite math teacher had a philosophy about us understanding how to get to formulas instead of memorizing them. Basically if we memorized them we were gonna remember them wrong and would never be the wiser because we thought we remembered it.