Number one for English language teachers

Embarrassing moments

A selection of your classroom anecdotes involving embarrassing situations.

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  • Anecdote: A fruity lesson

    Author: Brooks Emerson Type: Anecdote

    I'm a writing teacher at a prep school in Istanbul, Turkey. To illustrate process writing, I brought in 3 kinds of fruit: apples, oranges and bananas. There were enough for each student to choose one each. After choosing, I asked them to brainstorm together why they chose that particular fruit, slowly leading them to writing a paragraph. Unfortunately, two of the students - Mustafa and Mehmet - started playing with the fruit instead of completing the task. In my sternest ...

  • Anecdote: Amnesiacs

    Author: John Routledge Type: Anecdote

    An embarrassing thing happened to me when I was introducing an activity which I call 'Amnesiac' to my class of Thai teenagers. I wrote 'Amnesiac' on the board and asked if anyone knew what it meant. To my surprise, one of my students gave me a pretty good definition and even added the fact that you're more likely to be an amnesiac the older you get. I carried on with the explanation of the activity, which basically involves the students getting into groups of 3 or 4 with one of them ...

  • Anecdote: An unfortunate misunderstanding

    Author: Sheena Bruet-Patel Type: Anecdote

    Sheena Bruet-Patel shares this winning anecdote that reminds us of the questions teachers should never ask their students!

  • Anecdote: Anyone for punting?

    Author: Becky Sparks Type: Anecdote

    Becky Sparks shares her winning anecdote about the hazards involved in trying to be an entertaining summer school teacher.

  • Anecdote: Coffeepotting

    Author: Becky Sparks Type: Anecdote

    Becky Sparks shares a winning anecdote on mischievous students in Italy.

  • Anecdote: Cut up about homework

    Author: Hillary Leben Type: Anecdote

    When I started teaching some of my friends were surprised. They thought I'd be able to put my creativity to good use, but that my organisational skills were so lacking that I might run into problems. Inevitably, I did.

  • Anecdote: Dictatorial teaching

    Author: Gabrielle Klingelhöfer Type: Anecdote

    This happened a few years ago when I was teaching German to a group of adults. I had just introduced the imperative and now I was practising this grammar point, telling them to stand up, sit down, etc.

  • Anecdote: Did she do the exam or not?

    Author: Jane Richards Type: Anecdote

    As the co-ordinator of EFL programmes at the school where I work, I am involved in interviewing and placing students as part of the registration and enrolment procedure.

  • Anecdote: Don't drink and teach

    Author: Brian Macdonald Type: Anecdote

    Last year I was teaching in Seoul, my friend was leaving and we decided to go out for a few beers to say goodbye. A beer led to ten which in turn led to a karaoke bar. Before you could croon "Return To Sender" it was the early hours which was a problem for me as I was teaching young children very early the next day. "Don't worry" was my so called friend's response, "have another beer". Well, time flies when your having fun and so, unchanged and unwashed I went to work. During the class, ...

  • Anecdote: Drinking on the job

    Author: Anna Kruk Type: Anecdote

    My students are notable lawyers from a law firm in Lima. They are usually very serious and professional, but not during our classes. Yesterday they were supposed to practise a dialogue about the best and the worst trip they have ever had. I listened to them carefully, to catch the mistakes, but as they practised in pairs I had to be everywhere. Suddenly, I heard one of them saying to his partner: "I always be drunk!"

  • Anecdote: High kicks in Tajikistan

    Author: Kevin McCaughey

    Thanks to Kevin McCaughey for sharing this unforgettable anecdote that is every teacher's worst nightmare!

  • Anecdote: Hold on tight!

    Author: Anonymous Type: Anecdote

    I was teaching a mixed class of about 14 students aged 10/11 years old. I was demonstrating a board race and running from the students to the board quickly. In my enthusiasm, I failed to notice that my skirt was dangling precariously on my hips and was in the middle of spelling something when I experienced the unthinkable. My skirt had fallen to the ground to expose a pair of legs, covered by thick, black woolly tights. To add extra interest for the kids, I had a massive whole in the ...

  • Anecdote: Hot male

    Author: Andrew Donelan Type: Anecdote

    Andrew Donelan tells us how an unfortunate spelling mistake occurred when using the internet with a class.

  • Anecdote: I am hard

    Author: Willow Vanderbosch Type: Anecdote

    This happened when I was teaching English in New Zealand. My students were primarily Chinese and most had chosen an English name, some with more success than others.

  • Anecdote: Keeping up appearances

    Author: Andrea Stoll Type: Anecdote

    Andrea Stoll shares an anecdote about some DVD confusion.

  • Anecdote: Latest fashion

    Author: Vicky Lopez Type: Anecdote

    There's always something I take great care of when I'm starting a new English group. I plan my outfit weeks before the class is due to begin, I choose the most appropriate suit, the right colour, the shoes, the bag, the jeans and T-shirt for adolescent groups and so on. It's just something that comes naturally to me, the way you dress can help you when want to give the best impression and win the students over by the end of the class!

  • Anecdote: Not to be recommended

    Author: Chris Ellison Type: Anecdote

    After a hard first week of term, meeting new students, learning names and discovering class dynamics, I got together with a couple of teacher friends for a serious 'debriefing' and beer session. We started discussing the difficulties some students have in learning simple things, such as the alphabet. One of my friends said that she'd been having particular trouble with a couple of executive business students, one of whom could say the alphabet while the other consistently made the same ...

  • Anecdote: Rogue underpants

    Author: Andrew James Type: Anecdote

    One morning I was giving a lesson to a - mercifully - small class. Turning from the board back to face the class, I caught sight of my underpants lying on the floor beside me. They were in full view of the class.

  • Anecdote: Speak up!

    Author: Marcia Type: Anecdote

    While working with young college women in a coed university, I found I had to constantly encourage the women to speak up, as they appeared embarrassed to voice their opinions in English in front of their male counterparts. They called themselves “shy” and spoke in soft hesitant voices, but outside the classroom they proved to be anything but shy. Tired of their excuses, I reminded them that shyness was often interpreted as weakness by English speakers, so they should try to speak loudly ...

  • Anecdote: Taking precautions

    Author: Rochelle Watson Type: Anecdote

    After drilling my advanced business writing students for weeks on basic rules of punctuation, especially concerning the proper use of the comma, I gave them a punctuation test. I was certain that they would do well on the exam as they had performed well on practice and homework assignments. They also did well with the practice we did together as a class.

  • Anecdote: Tell me about your job

    Author: John Walker Type: Anecdote

    This is an anecdote from my previous job, when I used to teach business English to professional people.

  • Anecdote: The chair

    Author: Justin O'Coner Type: Anecdote

    This happened in my English 401 class at the Center for Interamerican Studies in Cuenca, Ecuador. My class of adult learners and I were seated around our table, enthusiastically discussing Ecuador’s presidential election. I was seated upon one of the Center’s utilitarian, hollow-legged, metal chairs, chairs that never seemed to fully appreciate nor confidently support my 220-pound frame. My chair’s smooth, plastic-tipped legs were reflected by the shiny surface of the classic wood floor. ...

  • Anecdote: The cow

    Author: Hannah Cotterill Type: Anecdote

    Once I was playing a game with my year 2 class which involves one child having a post-it stuck to their foreheads with an animal/fruit or whatever written on it. I'm sure you know the one... they have to ask questions to guess what they are. One little girl, Alice (who was known by the headmistress of the school for being a trouble-maker) was having a go when the headmistress entered my class to show a potential parent around the school. They both looked a bit shocked because the post-it ...

  • Anecdote: The joys of winter!

    Author: Ann Bataillard Type: Anecdote

    As a student teacher some years ago, I was giving my first lessons in a secondary school, with several different classes throughout the day. It was a cold February and each morning I had to get up very early and walk a good distance to the market square , where a teacher from the school picked me up in his car to take me to the school. The day before, it had snowed quite heavily and overnight it had settled thickly on the ground so that this particular day I had to wear Wellington boots ...

  • Anecdote: The ultimate ice-breaker

    Author: Catherine Richards Golini Type: Anecdote

    A few years ago I worked in London, teaching in-company at various Japanese organisations. One evening, on the 13th floor of a tower block in the centre of London, I had my first class with the finance director of a well-known Japanese electronics manufacturer. He was very nervous and not at all convinced that I was the teacher he had been promised. I was busy taking off my coat, chatting, unpacking my bag and attempting to break the ice with smiles and friendly noises. All the while ...

  • Anecdote: Throw the dice

    Author: Karina Morganti Type: Anecdote

    I was attending a teachers´ seminar with my colleague and friend. The teacher was holding a set of cards with the numbers 1 to 6 written on them. She showed the cards to us and stuck them on the board. Suddenly, she gave a dice to me and said ¨Throw the dice, please.¨

  • Anecdote: Time of the month

    Author: Beth Ovens

    An embarrassing anecdote from my time teaching in China....

  • Anecdote: Tough teacher

    Author: Julian Romero Type: Anecdote

    I remember once teaching in 2nd grade elementary. I was teaching the lesson on clothes and as I wanted to use realia, I had brought different articles of clothing, but I had forgotten my belt. So, I decided to use the belt I was wearing. As I held up the belt on my right hand, I was holding the hand of a little girl who was crying with my left hand for support. Right at that moment the school principal and a couple of other teachers passed by.

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