Teachers From Around The World Share The Smartest Things Said By Bad Students

Teachers From Around The World Share The Smartest Things Said By Bad Students

Not every student excels at the traditional aspects of eduction: standardized tests, class participation, macaroni art. But there are lots of different ways to be smart. Sometimes "bad" students will come out with incredibly funny or clever or insightful observations when given the chance. Good teachers know this.

In that spirit, these teachers from around the world recently went online to share the smartest things their less academically inclined students ever did or said.


40. Acting up or acting out

When I was teaching grade 5 a few years back, I had a student who really struggled academically and misbehaved a lot. During one of his "punishments", which was washing dishes with me from our morning breakfast time, I straight up asked him why he kept getting into trouble.

The boy admitted that he just knew that if he misbehaved he would get to spend time with me 1:1, and we would talk about life and his hobbies and such.

I found out later on that his father had been incarcerated for pretty much the entirety of the boy's life.

So, the 'stupidest' and most misbehaved kid in the class was actually just playing the system the whole time, and really just needed a positive male role model in his life.

After that, I told him he didn't need to act up in order to spend time with me. He could just ask for extra responsibility and I would give it to him. He was (mostly) better behaved after that.

I miss him, a lot.

plate-629970-300x199.jpgImage by

39. Right answer, wrong language

I'm teaching English as a foreign language and one of my students hasn't been attending for a year. When he finally came, I gave him an essay to write. He wrote it in perfect German because he thought that we were studying German. The guy had been learning German all year long only to learn that we were studying English. This is both the smartest and the stupidest thing I can imagine.


background-2956789-300x184.jpgImage by

38. Teddy Roosevelt survived and you will too

I don't know if this counts but I was teaching a public speaking class. It was mostly 9th grade. They were all nervous about their first big speech, and I tried to ease their nerves by saying, "I promise giving a speech won't kill you."


I couldn't even talk for probably 5 minutes. I just smiled, nodded, and let out a chuckle. I think said something like, "Not in my classroom!" I probably shouldn't say that with all the shooting crap going on in the US.


37. Failing up

I used to teach chess to elementary level kids.

Would run "Chess Camp" over the summer. 20-40 kids come in every day for a full "school day" but every period is basically a chess class. Lasts a week.

On the first day, I would tell kids they need to Lose to get better, which is true in a game like chess (especially in the beginning). I would tell them, "You have to lose 50 games before you can improve in chess."

Well on about day 3 I'm walking from the field to the class and see one of my students, 2nd grader, walking the other direction and ask him off-hand "How's chess going?"

And he responds "Well, I've lost all of my games so I guess I'm doing great!"


chess-2730034-300x169.jpgImage by


36. That's, like, your opinion, man

I teach 1st grade so many are not as dramatic as other replies.

I had a kid who is kind of never quite paying attention. We read a dinosaur book and were answering VERY basic 1st grade questions in the back of the book. It literally had a brachiosaurus and said:

The dinosaur's legs are:

a) long

b) short

He pretty much got stuck here and didn't move on. To me, it was the easiest question in the book but some of the students are low level English learners so it is possible he just couldn't understand the words long or short. After like 7 minutes of doing my rounds and assisting other students, I came back to him. He had written in:

c) "Long" and "short" are both opinion words.

monochrome-1378799_1920-300x200.jpgImage by

35. Thunder struck

In a college music history class, we were discussing the differences in sound between a harpsichord from the High Baroque and today's grand piano.

One student, who normally contributed little, said:

"The reason the 2 instruments sound so different is because harpsichord strings are plucked by quills, whereas piano strings are struck by hammers - and, you'd make different sounds, too, if plucked or struck!"

trio-84140-300x229.jpgImage by

34. He did his own research

Elementary School. I worked in the school admin office for a while. We had a cop come in to speak to the kids, basically to warn them on the dangers of strangers and random people speaking to them in the street. The cop was great and told the kids how they should always be careful and that some bad men might take them away from their mummies and daddies.

One kid puts his hand up and asks the question “so what will happen if we go with one of these stranger men?” The cop wasn't prepared for that question and just said how sad it would be and how his parents would miss him.

A few days later a new buzzword was going around the school which phonetically sounded like “peed-or-file”. The kid had looked up online or spoke to someone and then told the other kids in schools about what bad men do. It scared the heck out of some of the kids and the principal had to come to each class to calm the kids down.

bodyworn_body_camera_police_body_camera_law_enforcement_cops_law_enforcing_-1551768488543-300x200.jpgImage by

33. It makes them fictional

When learning mythology, one of my students came out with this gem:Mister, if centaurs have 2 arms and 4 legs, does that make them insects?”

centaur-154318-208x300.pngImage by

32. A complex sense of humor

I have a student in my class with autism. He is very high-functioning but he is a couple years behind his grade level. We were discussing the American Revolution and one of the vocab words we had was 'tyrannical leader'.

I jokingly told the class that if I was ever the leader of the country that’s the kind of leader I would be and I went on to say that all of your teachers would be that way too. Most of the class looked at me blankly but this one kid with autism understood what I was saying and looked at me and while trying to contain his laughter says: “Well, that’s because all teachers have a superiority complex.” I just couldn’t help but laugh in front of the class for the next five minutes.


allan-ramsay-92247-207x300.jpgImage by

31. Profound and profoundly sad

This kid isn’t dumb, but most of the things he says are, just because he talks a lot and likes to argue. This kid goes to a private school which is open for 11 hours every day, even though the school day runs for 7 hours. If parents need to drop their kids off early or pick them up late, they have that option.

He told me that he really wanted to get a dog, but his parents won’t do it because there would be no one home to take care of the dog most of the time. The rest of the conversation went like this:

Me: That makes sense. Puppies and dogs need lots of attention. It wouldn’t be nice to leave them home alone all day.

Kid: Well, we could bring it to doggy day care.

Me: Every day?? If someone is taking care of your dog for 8 hours every day, is that even your dog?

Him: Well, that’s what they do with kids!

So real and so sad. That moment has stayed with me for a few years now.

boy-694763-300x214.jpgImage by


30. A light at the end of the tunnel

'I don't wanna be dumb like my mama.’

Teacher at a city school for a time where almost all the students had free breakfast and lunch (written about it before). Lots of the kids realized and knew they were in a no-win situation and a downward spiral in terms of education and situation in life. Quite a number of them tried their darndest though to get out of it.

Lots of times the kids don't know what is awaiting them at home. Many parents don't read to their kids or help them with homework (many just can't because they themselves barely have an education) or they are in just bad bad situations.

One student came in and said their momma chose to pay the cable TV bill over the hot water bill, and another week their mom shot themselves in the hand with a gun she had borrowed from some guy. Later the same mom chose to pay her cell phone bill over electricity....and that student had enough and decided to start studying and try to climb out. There is hope!

book-1853677-300x200.jpgImage by

29. Kid earned that one

I was on lunch duty one day and a middle school boy jokingly said, “Sir, you wanna buy me a snack?" I replied with, "Do I look like your daddy?" He replied, straight faced, "I don't know, you might. I ain't never met him." I bought him a snack.

chocolate-bar-1636220-300x200.jpgImage by

28. Cheetahs never prosper

Kids are smart some days and clueless others. Some grow out of it, others never do. Anyway, we were talking about cheetahs being the fastest land mammal. Some inner-city kid swells up and says he can beat a cheetah in a race. The class laughs. Kid doesn't let it go. Finally he just says, "I can beat a FAT cheetah in a race." I'm just thinking, “Maybe?"


cheetah-4121719-300x200.jpgImage by

27. AWOL nation

It wasn't so much what she said, but did. She certainly wasn't stupid, but as an at-risk youth counsellor I can say she was very low functioning.

She went AWOL one night outta the blue. Not one staff saw her leave. Usually when this happens, kids go do dumb kid stuff like going to a park to drink and smoke; teenage shenanigans.

Well, we didn't see her for two days! We finally got a phone call from a person who had taken her in, four hundred some miles away. When she got back to our facility she had this nervous look, knowing I was gonna scold her. I didn't, I was too freaking impressed! I asked her how she did it, and she said she kept hopping busses. I guess none of the drivers had the heart to kick her off, so there she went.

I took a very big risk in the fact that I congratulated her on her journey. Her eyes lit up when I told her she had managed to travel farther then any kid that had ever gone AWOL. She never did it again and actually graduated the program with success. Still a booger, but I'll always remember that booger.

houston-texas-metro-bus-2732369-300x200.jpgImage by

26. Bonus marks for the wordplay

I had a bandaid on my elbow (one of the big ones) and my student was trying to work out what had caused it. (It was a fall I took after having a few too many drunks.)

I said ninjas had got me. He said it sounded like a "nin-jury.” I laughed out loud.

ninja-2007576-300x199.jpgImage by

25. That's how I knew this was the job for me

Two incidents come to mind.

Kids (10 and 11 year olds) having a disagreement on their group assignment. I instinctively call out the naughty kid, whose whiney voice is ingrained in my brain and is the first voice I notice. He jumps up and screams that his group are egotistical [bleeps] who can’t even decide on a topic two days into their assignment. Was impressed by his vocabulary but more so that the small amount that had been done on the assignment already was completely his. Still had to send him to the principal.

The other children in the group were punished as well, not just the kid yelling.

Another time, I was on in a class of 7-8 year olds. A pair of girls gave me a drawing and said I was really pretty. Another girl who seemed to be from a lower class family compared to her classmates and had learning delays heard this and came up to me saying, “I don't think you are pretty.” I was taken aback but kids are kids and don’t always have filters.

She saw the look on my face and followed up quickly, saying, “I think you are kind and smart. Being pretty doesn’t matter, girls can be more than pretty. Are you going to stay as our teacher forever?”

And that was the moment I knew this profession was for me.

girl-1711133_1920-300x200.jpgImage by


24. Walk a mile in my Nikes

Some of my 5th graders were playing with a basketball in the hallway. I told them to stop, they did for a second, then continued. I said, "Guys, WHY do you keep bouncing that ball in the hallway?" and one of them just looked at me and said, “If you were 10 you'd do it too."

I was like... yeah. I guess I would.

basketball-2258650-300x200.jpgImage by

23. Kid gave you a reality check

"I don't understand what's going on in class because you explain things so only the smart kids understand."

He was absolutely right. I wasn't meeting my students on their level and building them up. I was immediately expecting them to be on my level, and that just wasn't realistic. Five years ago, as a brand new teacher, this was an important thing for me to hear. It completely changed the way I planned lessons, and I'm a much better teacher now because of what he said. I still think back on that moment. Sometimes the students impact our lives just as much as we impact theirs, and teach us important lessons.

classroom-2093744_1920-300x214.jpgImage by

22. You're wrong, but I like the way you think

I was making a joke about mermaids to a 6 year old: "If a mermaid is a person on top and a fish on the bottom, is a person-on-bottom fish-on-top a mermaid too or is it something else?"

Kid pauses and says, “Well no it’s not a mermaid, because if you have a fraction like 1/2 its not the same as 2/1"

I thought that was both the cleverest answer to that question I ever heard but also made no sense - mermaids aren't math. I ask that question to a lot of kids and this is by far my favorite answer.

mermaid-2456981-300x170.jpgImage by

21. I just solved black holes

One time, one of my fifth graders got a negative answer for a math question involving volume.

Me: Negative volume? Think about that for a minute.

Fifth grader: Couldn't that be for a black hole?

He's incorrect of course, but based on what he knows, that is some reeaaaal lateral thinking. Can't say he's right, but I want to get the point across that he was really clever.


fractal-1280081-300x221.jpgImage by

20. Let's just pencil in a natural disaster

English as a second language teacher here. I specifically work with new-to-country students who have only just arrived in the U.S.

One day a few years ago, I was trying to explain to my class why we were practicing a tornado drill. Many had never seen/heard of a "tornado" so I found a quick YouTube clip to show what they are.

After we finished, one girl was visibly freaked out but very clearly wanted to be prepared for this monstrosity. So she took out her planner and asked me what days the tornado comes to the city.

I tried to be consoling but inside I was laughing so hard!

tornado-541911-300x197.jpgImage by

19. The horror, the horror

Studying Gothic novels with my low ability, special needs group and they were asked to say how they feel about horror films. My student came out with, "I love horror films because they make me more aware of my surroundings." I was very impressed.

horror-1160360-300x207.jpgImage by


18. That kid's name? Neville Longbottom

When I was teaching second grade, I had a mug that said, "I teach muggles because Hogwarts wasn't hiring". A boy noticed the Harry Potter font and asked what it meant. I translated for him and he went: "But you don't even know if we are muggles or not! We might get a letter at eleven years old!" I was quite impressed with that quick thinking.

castle-1176423-300x200.jpgImage by

17. You've got small balls

I teach ESL. I had a student about 7 and we were all doing the workbook. The lesson revolved around things like big and small, old and new, clean and dirty, as well as toys, like dolls, balls, yo-yos, AND this/that/these/those. It is easily one of my least favorite lessons because it really is a lot for the young students to understand.

The photo was a boy pointing to a desk with a few small, round objects on it. The girl was taking forever, but she always seemed a bit slower in class, and so I wasn’t too shocked. I was checking the other students work and figured she would finish in time and I would help her at the correction stage.

Finally she makes it up to my desk and I get to the picture. The obvious answer was “these are small balls.” What did she have though? “These are marbles.”

The kids hadn’t even learned that word! How she came up with it left me absolutely baffled, but from that point on, I never questioned her intelligence. I figured she just knew different things, but it didn’t mean she didn’t understand. She clearly just spent 30 minutes wracking her brain for the best word for “small balls.”

ESL. Every day is a surprise.

marbles-1659398-300x200.jpgImage by

16. Not all clowns are stupid

The class clown was answering a question and used the word “vernacular.” Everyone just stopped and looked at him and he was like: “Yeah, that’s right. I know words.” This was grade 9.

asian-boys-community-923657-300x225.jpgPhoto by kat wilcox from Pexels

15. There are different ways of being smart

Just this past Tuesday, I had a student struggling with science homework (actually math skills, but for my science class). He was almost mute about what he needed, what he didn't understand, no matter how much I tried to guide him through unit conversions. The study period was ending and I had to let him go with little progress made.

As he was packing up, he told me, "I'll try it again after art class. I'm usually smarter at this after I do some art."

I thought that was an interesting observation, and I asked him why he thought that might be the case. He said: "I'm pretty good at art. It's easier to try hard stuff while I still feel like I'm good at something, because I want to keep feeling like that."

That's the entire educational psychology argument for fostering a sense of competency in the support of intrinsic motivation, in the fewest words possible.

(I actually think he's one of my smartest students, really. He just struggles to make it show on paper.)

painting-911804-300x169.jpgImage by

14. What's this on the ground?

My favorite student of all time in my 9 years of teaching was a kid named Logan. Logan was this giant kid. Tall as I was (5'2) in the 5th grade, and massive. Logan also had an information processing learning disability. He processed information more slowly than most people. He spoke very slowly and deliberately with long pauses, and just saw the world differently.

Logan had learned early on that if he played dumb, people would treat him like he was stupid and do his work for him. He had this look he would put on his face - mouth agape, lower lip hanging down, legit drooling, eyes unfocused, and he would refuse to speak to you.

I figured that out really quickly and after two times of me making him talk to me at recess when he refused in class, he didn't pull that look with me anymore. It was a complete facade.

Anyway, because of how Logan processed the world, he would spend his recess slowly walking the grounds and picking up anything interesting he found. He found things no one else would find - coins, sequins, a box of sewing machine spools, etc, and he'd bring them to us teachers if he didn't know what they were or just wanted to share them with us.

So one day at recess he comes up to me and the other teacher at recess duty with me, and he's holding a condom wrapper. He asks us what it is, and the other teacher quickly says, "Oh Logan, that's just a candy wrapper for grown ups. Here, let me take that and throw it away." And Logan dead looks us in the face and says, "Oh good. I thought it was a condom, and those shouldn't be out here on the playground." And then he turned and ambled off.

His emotional intelligence was incredibly high. I had a student with autism in class, Tyler. Tiny little guy, super sweet, but would have occasional severe meltdowns. I will always have the image in my head of tiny little Tyler, mid meltdown, swinging his arms at giant Logan and screaming, while Logan simply stood there and took it and gently patted him on the head.

condom-1863436-300x285.jpgImage by

13. From shallow to deep

there was this kid in my film class who would always try to crack jokes and didn't bother paying attention to any of the deeper themes of the movies we watched.

However, when i showed them Lorenzo's Oil and I remarked how the parents were just trying to make sure the child was as comfortable as possible before he died, said student replied: "Isn't that how everyone lives?"

I had to take a second to think about how strangely deep that was coming from this class clown. He then went on to state that he didn't actually know the occupation of the father in the movie so it kinda ruined the moment, but that line always stuck with me.

movie-918655-300x200.jpgImage by

12. Twins, Basil

I had a set of twins in my class one time. I knew them from around school but I didn’t know there were two of them, I just thought there was one who was really fast or whatever. So on the first day I’m calling roll, and I see two similar names with the same last name, and call the first one. Girl says she’s here. I ask if there are two of her.

“Um, no, there’s one of me. But I do have a twin.”

Also another time a student said, “It’s easy to sound the smartest when you’re the only one talking,” not sure why that one stuck with me.

couple-1733991-300x200.jpgImage by

11. Manny asking the big questions

I had a student in 9th grade biology named Manny. He wasn’t THE stupidest kid I ever had, but he certainly wasn’t a Rhodes Scholar. I told my kids if they would get through mitosis and meiosis, I would answer any questions they had about the mechanics of reproduction.

One girl asked about birth control - whether you take it only when you get lucky or if you have to take it every day. I answered, and Manny, who had never heard of birth control said, “Wait miss.... wait. You’re telling me, there’s a pill girls take and they don’t get pregnant? WHY ARE ALL THESE GIRLS PREGNANT?”

Good question, Manny.

contraceptive-pills-849413-300x173.jpgImage by

10. The pursuit of happiness

I'm teaching in an elementary school. We were talking about what's typical for boys and girls and about whether these stereotypes are really true. A boy, who was interrupting class the whole year and didn't take much interest in the lessons, raised his hand and said: "But isn't this totally stupid? Isn't it most important that you’re happy? It doesn't matter if boys were dresses. If they like it, they can wear what ever they want." I was really proud of him.


theatre-955190-300x200.jpgImage by

9. “Enjoy your Snowballs, Mr. Lucas.”

In a college American Literature class there sat in the front row a student named Jeremy Lucas who dressed like a Rock-a-billy and always ate Hostess Snowballs and drank chocolate milk and never said a word. One day after drawing blanks from all of us regarding the narrative themes of The Great Gatsby, the professor turned and said, “Perhaps Mr. Lucas, YOU could enlighten the class on your views of the subject.” Jeremy replies, “May I stand?”

After the professor granted him the floor, Jeremy then took over the class and delivered a 45-minute lecture on Gatsby and Fitzgerald’s view of a post WWI America. It was interesting, informative and better than anything the professor had done all year. At the end of the lecture, the professor turned to Jeremy and laughing said, “Enjoy your Snowballs, Mr. Lucas.”

literature-326075-300x198.jpgImage by

8. All eunuchs are dead

“You said for something to be living it has to be able to reproduced. The dude you’re talking about got his junk cut off. He's dead. I don't care about brainwaves, he's dead. Also, protein."

At least they listen. Freshmen in biology.

biochemistry-biology-blue-2280571-300x200.jpgPhoto by Chokniti Khongchum from Pexels

7. Plato gets a C+

I don't even know exactly what the topic of discussion was, but I think we were defining some basic terms/ideas related to social ethics (my field is in the humanities). One mediocre student asked how we will know when we've arrived at the right definition if we have no knowledge of it beforehand... Said student didn't realize he had inadvertently stumbled upon an epistemological conundrum that has troubled philosophers going all the way back to Plato, if not further.

It would be like asking someone to go out and find me a dinglehopper. Well, if you have no idea what a dinglehopper is, then you can't very well know when you've got it.

fresco-478105-300x201.jpgImage by

6. Video games can teach history better than books sometimes

There was a boy named Justin in my history class. He loved to flirt with other girls and do dumb stuff with his friends. He got terrible grades, he had to repeat the grade that year.

I assigned the class a project about WWI. Justin wrote a one-page report and as I was reading it I was prepared for “jokes” and off-topic subjects. As I read it, it had no jokes or spelling errors. He compared WWI to a video game called Battle Field and how the developers forgot to add significant things, and he cited the things they forgot to add.

I pieced together that he was paying attention. He wasn’t getting good test scores because he just didn’t feel like it. He just needed something to compare the subject to, or an open-ended response question. After I graded it, I talked with him the next day and told him I understood what he needed to learn. For the rest of the year he got decent grades, but since it was almost summer at that point he had to repeat the grade, but he got all A’s the next year because I told my fellow employees what he needed to have to learn correctly.

He now works as a lawyer in a big city. Who would’ve thought one report could’ve changed someone learning entirely?


video-games-1557358-3-300x200.jpgImage by

5. You mean black and white movies, right?

This girl was not my dumbest student, but she certainly wasn't as smart as she thought she was. One day I was talking about life in the 1950s, and she tells me that her mum was around in the 1950s. This was 2011 and I know her mum, and I know that mum is not even close to being in her 60s. I ask her, "[Child], do you know how long ago the 1950s were?"

"Yeah! When there were still black and white people!"

I still can't work out if this statement was incredibly naïve or incredibly insightful, but I've never forgotten it.

rain-2538429-300x200.jpgImage by

4. Berry clever

Finally my chance to shine.

A very sleepy 5th grader in my class a few years ago asked if we were going to the “liberry” that day. I said, “A liberry? I’ve never had one before. What’s it taste like?”


books-1245744-300x200.jpgImage by

3. Applesauce is easier to rhyme

Preschoolers are so honest. It was carpet time and the kids were all sitting down. "Criss cross applesauce" was said in the distance, and one of the kids had stated that no one should say it like that. "We're not folding out legs into applesauce. It's more like a pretzel. We shouldn't say that." I mean technically the kid is right. I have now removed this saying from my classroom and let the kids sit however they want on the carpet.

apple-sauce-544676-300x169.jpgImage by

2. We teach kids how to learn

The student I work with is incredibly clever. He is autistic and at about a 1st grade level. We're working on sight words and reading, and he'd stare at the word for a few seconds, then at me. I'd sound it out for him and then he'd say it. It started happening way more often with words he definitely knew, so I made him start sounding them out alone repeatedly until he figured out the word.

After 2 days of this, I said "sound it out" and he actually rolled his eyes and said the word, he'd just been lazy and wanting me to do it for him. Since then I've found a lot of things he's capable of, but people underestimate him and do it for him so he's gotten stubborn and lazy.

blur-1283865-300x199.jpgImage by

1. 'Til death do us part

I don't think I could declare any of my students dumb, but one who wasn't the best at algebra definitely got the better of me one day.

I was working with another teacher (Mr. S) in an incarceration setting for teenage boys. These young men would often ask questions to test boundaries, force reactions, etc. It's jail school -- so it's a bit less formal.

Anyhow, in a room of about ten students, my co-teacher and I would do a funny man/straight man routine. Typically, this would fall along the lines of my absolutely agreeing with anything my co-teacher said he knew about me (that I had a criminal record, that I used to weigh 320 pounds, that I'd been married four times). Then, as the straight man, I'd play along and fill in details of what should have been obvious absurdities.

One day, Mr. S went beyond the bounds of believability for our students when he said I had a tattoo of his name at the base of my right buttock. I maintained that this was true, that it was the result of a lost bet on a football season, but several of the boys weren't buying it. One of these said, "Mister, for real, you got ANY tattoos?" (Nearly all of my students had several tattoos, typically visible.)

I was forced to admit I had none, but chose poorly in explaining myself.

"Okay, you're right. I don't have any tattoos."

"Why not? You have something against tattoos?"

"No. No, not at all. I just don't think I could make a decision like that."

"Like what?"

"You know, saying, 'this is what I want for the rest of my life.'"

"Wait. Mister. Ain't you married?"

Raucous laughter from the class and I joined in.


wedding-540905_1920-300x200.jpgImage by