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Pop Quiz: Who was your worst teacher?

We’ve all had that one teacher. The one we never got along with. The one who gave nothing but busywork. The one who mentally retired early, but kept on teaching for another decade or two. The one that we, each and every day, strive not to become.

I’d be willing to guess that, for all but the luckiest among us, just reading the title of this post immediately brought one (or more) terrible teachers to mind. Amirite?

Before going on I’d like to make clear that I was, by and large, incredibly lucky with the teachers I got throughout most of my education. I almost certainly would not be where I am today were it not for at least three excellent teachers I had in high school, one of whom is almost personally responsible for my decision to become an educator. Even those teachers I didn’t find quite so inspirational usually had at least something to offer, or at the very least didn’t actively seek to inflict misery.

But then there was my seventh grade history teacher, Mrs X (no relation to the esteemed Professor). For the sake of demonstrating her particular style, I’ll describe her method for ‘teaching’ the geography of each region we studied during her class:

Step 1: Give each student an 11″x17″ pre-labelled map of the region (because I guess making us label the map would have risked teaching us something?).

Step 2: Tell students to spend the entire class period colouring the map.

Now, this wouldn’t be so terrible if it weren’t for the way in which these ‘assignments’ were graded. You see, no two bordering countries could be the same colour or it was points off. But in many cases, we did not actually have enough different colours available to accomplish this feat (or perhaps we did, but were not sufficiently familiar with the Four colour theorem, though if I recall correctly corners touching was still points off). Worst of all, we had to colour all the water blue.

Except the water was already blue on the maps when we got them. We had to neatly colour huge expanses of already blue ocean. Truly, the Platonic ideal of busywork. Just thinking about it, even now, gets me agitated. Excuse me while I have a drink.

Who was your worst teacher? (No names, please!) Why were they so terrible? Did you learn anything from the experience?

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 3pm ET.

Featured image: Krzysztof Lubieniecki (1659-1729) – ‘The School Teacher’

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Dan holds a PhD in Music History from a major Canadian university and is now pursuing a M.Ed in Higher Education at another one, because he likes to collect very expensive paper. He performs stand-up comedy at venues all over Toronto when he's not busy playing JRPGs with his cat, Roy. You can follow him at @incontrariomotu, but he isn't going anywhere. You can also send him a tip on PayPal (paypal.me/dandonnelly) if you like his work!


  1. March 26, 2013 at 2:23 am —

    My high school chemistry teacher. Oh my goodness. The exemplar is probably the following story:

    Our high school moved to a block schedule which meant two two-hour classes and one one-hour class per week. It was the two-hour class on Thursday before a test Friday (our one-hour day). What we were supposed to be doing was finishing up a chapter and reviewing a whole unit before the test the next day. Ten minutes into class, she started talking about her favorite brand of lotion and how the company that made it discontinued it and she was really disappointed but she understands because there was a chemical in it that people were using to make illegal drugs so she gets it but it really was her favorite brand and there’s nothing else that’s quite like it but they were doing the responsible thing because of the drug dealers and all even if it was her favorite brand and she really liked it but they were using it to make drugs so it makes sense that they stopped producing it…

    Until the end of class. For nearly two hours.

    A friend of mine, on the test the next day, guessed on every answer we were supposed to cover, and in the area for the required shown work, he wrote the story of the lotion. For every one of them. I did not have that presence of mind, and I’m not sure I would have had the guts. I’m glad he did so I could have that button, though.

  2. March 26, 2013 at 2:52 am —

    I’m actually hoping Crash Course Chemistry will fill in some gaps I’ve still got. http://www.youtube.com/user/crashcourse/videos?view=1&flow=grid

  3. March 26, 2013 at 5:32 am —

    Yikes. If it makes you feel any better I had a teacher who used ‘cable in the classroom’ to watch Martha Stewart in our class every morning. She actually ranks with the inspirational ones, believe it or not.

  4. April 2, 2013 at 1:04 pm —

    I had a couple who are in the running for worst teacher. My fourth grade teacher would put a list of work up on the board (spelling page 92, reading pages 104-107) and then sit back and read V.C. Andrews novels. In some ways I appreciate that she let us work at our own pace, but I was SO BORED. I would finish the work quickly, and then work on the word searches she provided or read my own books for the rest of the day.

    My eighth-grade English teacher once gave me a 20 (out of 100) because I had completed an assignment in pen instead of pencil…or was it the other way around? In any case, on that particular assignment, she did not grade my writing, my spelling, my grammar, or anything else English-related–just the use of writing implement. That same teacher would sometimes yell at us, then get visibly emotional and say, “I’m sorry. I love you, class.” Oh, and during a discussion of whether I should be double-promoted, she was the only teacher who voted no, based on “my grammar,” an assessment that 20 years later I still do not understand.

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