Radical Teaching

Classroom strategies from a neurologist.

Your Bad Teacher Experiences Can Make Your Child’s Teachers Better

The greatest school fear reported by students is being reprimanded for in front of classmates. Embarassment or negative attention reduces children’s learning potentials because their brains learn to avoid participation to reduce the risk of potential mistakes. Sharing your “bad teacher” experiences can help teachers avoid making those same mistakes. Read More

Ill Share mine. I was in 1st

Ill Share mine. I was in 1st grade one day. I remember i deficated in my pants, and was kinda embarrassed because most of the other kids kinda got past that phase. I went up to my teacher and whispered into her ear about the situation, looking for advice. To that she yells: "You did what? Go to the bathroom!" So, being young embarrassed child, i started to cry. Her response to that was "stop crying, you baby!" This is my only bad teacher experience. haunts me to this day.

Small contribution

I have so many of the 'bad teacher' experiences, I don't know where to start. I'm 65 years old and I can still feel the greatest anger and outrage at some of the humiliation tactics and abuse of power of my teachers of almost 60 years ago. If I could find them, I might still be tempted to do them the very greatest harm.
Rather than look at the negative, I'll talk about the odd positive. He was a little Welshman, the rugby coach, who would put his arm around me when things had gone wrong and encourage me to persevere. His generosity still sticks in my mind as a counterpoint to the meanness of countless others.
I'd love to contribute to this project more fully but, even today, I don't want to relive the dreadful schooling experiences that I suffered. It has taken me years to more or less overcome them and right now, as I write these words, I can feel the anger brewing.


My son is twice exceptional: he has a high IQ and mood related behavior control issues. I now homeschool him in part because of an inflexible teacher. She would constantly argue with my son about him doing his homework in class. She would come out of the classroom at pick up time, irate, and tell me "talk to him, homework is for home!" If she could've had some flexibility, things would've gone so much smoother for both my son and her. In my son's case, the homework wasn't reinforcing new pathways--he already knew how to do it, and he'd completed the classwork and was bored, and he had impulse control issues. With his classwork done, he started in on the homework when she set it down on his desk. If she had been able to look at this in context for this student, instead of a blanket rule "Homework is for home." it would have been much better.

It sounds like she needed to

It sounds like she needed to pass the homework out at the end of the day and not in the middle of class. or could have given him something else to do once he had gotten his classwork done. though it is very hard to be a classroom teacher and teach 20 students who have different learning speeds and abilities.

While i can't justify her reaction you also have to think from her perspective, tons of kids (no matter the grade) will instead of doing homework at home will breeze through it in class while everything is fresh and not do the school work they were supposed to be doing. When they come in the next day they struggle becuase rather than refreshing their memory by doing the work at home they did it while in class. I saw this alot in high school as well as the lower grades, which is sad. I can't say what the teacher did was right, but if she was having this problem it would have been better if she handed out the homework at the end of the day.

you did not say what age your son was. if he is old enough (say 7-8 years old) you should have encouraged him to listen to his teacher and encourage him to catch himself being impulsive and to stop the impulsive behavior. its a long hard road to controlling or limiting impulsive behavior but you have to start somewhere. I have ADHD and I can understand what its like to be young and impulsive. be firm and encouraging and always be kind. Impulsive behavior will not get better on its own, it has to be actively worked on for a very long time. teachers who deal with impulsive children need to be patient but not let up. It might sound horrible but that is the best way to help a child learn to fix their impulsiveness.

~ signed an Adhd Student teacher

" but if she was having this

" but if she was having this problem it would have been better if she handed out the homework at the end of the day. "

Or, perhaps this student didn't really need homework....

I tested out also with a high genius IQ and did the same thing, so maybe this boy's issue was less ADHD related. I finished my homework immediately to get it off my plate and leave my afternoons free to focus on something more enjoyable ( like reading or ballet ). This isn't impulsive behavior.... it is getting rote, tedious work out of the way. Most homework I received was useless and did not "refresh" the memory. If I was shown a concept in math class I got it immediately so what was the point really of making me do 20 problems of the same type? I finally gave up entirely and refused to do math homework. My sophomore year teacher, instead of penalizing me, creatively bribed me to join the math team in exchange for doing homework... I was thrilled.

Similarly, I would routinely get kicked out of "study period" because I would be bored and have no work to do. One day I was hungry and ate a strawberry and the study teacher said, "Unless you are getting all As, you should be doing your work." "But I am getting all As"... kicked out. Finally my calculus professor offered to let me skip study and tutor one of his math classes.

If you give a child something to research or investigate for homework ( something novel ) that is great. Otherwise, homework is generally useless and most bright students I know just got it out of the way but it didn't add any value. I hated public schooling for that very reason.

My bad experience

I won't go into the details, all I'll say is that if and when a child in class is being bullied (either physically or mentally) and/or is being publicly humiliated by others you need to direct him to the people who handle these problems - usually counselors. You don't tell them "That's just the way it is." (which is a small step away from "Get used to it."), when they turn to you for help.

I can understand that teachers are not qualified psychotherapists but as adults they should teach the young child as to who he needs to address in various situations.

The worst teachers ever!

I have had a countless string of really horrid teachers from the incompetent to the utterly racist. I completed my entire elementary and the majority of my high school career with an undiagnosed learning disability and a hearing disability. The negative comments about my "lack of focus", "laziness" and general disrespect of school rules went on for years. The worse part wasn't how mean they all were or how annoyed they were by me (though that was pretty bad), it was that I had internalized all that they thought about me. I believed that I was a hopeless case because I tried so hard to be better and still failed I knew I wasn't lazy but that certainly I must be stupid. One of the worse moments in a very bad school experience came at my junior year English teacher's pen. I was choosing my classes for senior year and one of my many talents has always been telling stories and I thought "Why not take creative writing". This miserable, white haired, bitter Catholic school teacher looked at my schedule and without thought, huffed and said "Creative Writing isn't for you, it's an HONORS course" and crossed it out. She handed me the schedule without looking up and said "choose another class" I felt all of the air sucked out of the room. She had said it loud enough for other students to hear and I was paralyzed with embarrassment, anger and ultimately a sadness that remains with me today. I choose to take Home Economics were we learned to cook and sew (and I am still pretty damn good at that!) My story doesn't end there though. I leave high school and struggle with college and fight the neigh sayers. I find out that my hearing is much worse than anyone knew and that I had missed about 70% of all things lectured (the preferred method of teaching) I become what I needed most... A TEACHER. And I am one of the best that has ever step into a classroom. Because I know what NOT to do.

Your journey from misidentified student to carint teacher

Congratulations on following the voice within that prompted you to persevere and make a difference as a teacher. I will use your experiences as examples in my presentations to educators here and abroad. I'm sure many will benefit from your taking the time to share your powerful story.
Judy Willis, M.D.

Your transformation from misidentified student to teacher

Congratulations on following the voice within that prompted you to persevere and make a difference as a teacher. I will use your experiences as examples in my presentations to educators here and abroad. I'm sure many will benefit from your taking the time to share your powerful story.
Judy Willis, M.D.

It isn't just grade school -- university can be worse

Have a look at this short video if you want to see a truly bad professor. The university faculty association is attempting to ban the recording of lectures to protect the guilty (senility, incompetence and sexual harassment) all in the name of "Intellectual Property". The really damning thing is not the bad professors, but that the administration condones it and there is nothing students can do about it. It is an institutional problem.

You don't need electrical engineering knowledge to follow this one.


When you run into a teacher who acts irrationally, get out.

I have a high IQ and have discovered over the years that being smarter can get me in trouble.

My rule of thumb these days is to be quiet unless I am sure to be appreciated. Often in the past my enthusiasm for a subject, has gotten me into trouble with my instructors.

Twice in my life its been so bad that I've actually realized that if I didn't switch instructors I would simply fail my class because the verbal abuse I was getting in the way of learning.

It's even been the case that my classmates knew what I was experiencing was bizarre.

The only solution has been to switch classes when possible. When it's the choice between an A or an F any kid who feels harassed should make a change.


My daughter was placed in a classroom that was to provide extra support for students who struggle with organization. At the time she was a freshman in high school and it was only the 5th week of school. One day while in this support class she had forgotten to bring her notebook and the teacher came up to her and informed he that her grades "suck." After my daughter told me of her humiliating experience I e-mailed the teacher and she actually admitted that she told my daughter her grades "suck." She explained that it was due to her frustration. I would think that if a teacher is frustrated she would implement a plan that would help the struggling student improve opposed to one that is psychologically damaging. I have many stories like this shared in my tell all book regarding my children's educational experiences as well as my experiences as a third grade teacher, Snitch:True Stories of Destructive Classrooms and Bad Teachers, available next month.

Another bad experience

I grew up in Christchurch New Zealand; a particularly intolerant part of the country, I encountered a lot of racism during my childhood. Most damaging was the racism I experienced at the hands of my teachers. I was made the butt of my primary teacher's racist jokes which my classmates found hilarious. I would often find my lunch in the toilet and swastikas drawn on my belongings, bullies were never punished and I was told it was because I didn't fit in. High school was just as bad, I remember our social studies teacher giving us textbook printouts on racial groups which described my racial group as unattractive and stupid. As a teen I hated school and classrooms because of my negative experiences. I had absolutely no respect for teachers or the education system. As a result I began to skip class at 13. When I did show up my maths teacher would make disparaging remarks about my race and how we were all stupid and prone to skipping class.

Surely this all happened in the 60s? No, this was in the 1990s! Eventually my parents removed my brother and I from school and we were homeschooled. I have only just enrolled in University, something I've avoided for a long time due to those traumatic school years. People don't often hear about the inherent racism present in our public education systems, so I thought I'd share my experience.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

Judy Willis, M.D., is a board-certified neurologist and middle school teacher, is an authority on classroom strategies derived from brain research.


Subscribe to Radical Teaching

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.