Sometimes our lessons go exactly according to plan: students are active and engaged, they ask terrific questions, and, at the end, they’ve mastered the skills we wanted them to. And other times, things take a more interesting turn. We asked teachers to share lessons from their classrooms that had unexpected consequences, and here’s what they had to say.
I accidentally created the sugar police
I taught my 2nd graders how to find “hidden” forms of sugar in the ingredients of the foods they buy. I had more than one angry phone call from parents who were having a hard time at the grocery store after that. Seems the kids were fighting parents on sugary purchases. —Libby B.
I learned there’s such a thing as too much honesty
Taught the kiddos to always be honest with me. Now they will declare before they start their classes, “I didn’t do my homework because I didn’t feel like it.” —Ginny G.
I made a student cry so hard I had to call her mom
I read “Old Yeller” to my third grade class. I had one girl, my best friend’s child, cry so hard. I had to call her mom, and I said, “I’m sorry, but I think I broke Emma.” —Kiley T.
I inspired a future dictator
At the beginning of our WWII unit, I was teaching my 6th graders about the rise of dictators in Europe. One of my girls wanted to know how old you had to be to be a dictator. When I told her I didn’t think there was an age restriction, she replied, “Good! So I can start getting ready now, and by the time I graduate, I’ll be ready to take over the U.S. … and then the WORLD!” —Lee F.
I made silent reading not-so-silent
I read a Bad Guys book to my second graders under the document camera. They had to read all the words in bold with lots of expression. Now independent reading time is much louder. —Lisa S.
I taught kindergarteners how to be socialists
I was doing an extremely simplified role play of the three branches of government with kindergarteners. They passed laws socializing ice cream. I’ve rarely been prouder. —Eley E.
I wasted a 911 operator’s time
I taught my kids how to call 911, and one did after his dog peed on the carpet! I didn’t even think he caught on to the lesson. —Jen W.
I was bombarded by plastic eyeballs
My prompt for students to pay attention was when I said, “Eyes to me.” On April 1st, one year, I gave the direction and was bombarded with numerous rubber eyeballs by 26 6th graders. They could not contain themselves, hooting and laughing. I sat there, head down, grinning from ear to ear. —Cyrene S.
I taught my students the most annoying joke ever
I taught my kindergarten ESL students a simple joke (because their jokes didn’t make sense) “Up high (high five)—Down low (low high five, but you move your hand away)—too slow!” They proceeded to do it to every adult they worked with for over a month but not get the words right. I created a monster 😬 and a lot of confusion for the adults. Sorry! —Christina K.
I inspired my students to stand up to the principal
Taught about the ’60s and the civil rights protest. Later that week, totally on their own and unknown to me, my second graders shut down lunch and refused to move over the banning of chocolate milk. Principal was not amused; I was so proud of them. —Cheryl S.
Have you ever taught a lesson with unexpected consequences? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!