It might have seemed like a good idea at first — punishing students by humiliating them in front of their peers — but for some teachers, that plan quickly backfired.
Especially when it comes to make teens read the notes they were caught passing in class out loud in front of everyone. Educators (and students) from across America shared their most cringeworthy stories on reddit and reminded everyone that sometimes it's just easier to throw the note away and pass out a detention slip.
1. Honesty is the best policy.
"Not really a note, but when I was teaching college classes, I caught two of the girls whispering, so I told them 'If you're going to tell secrets, you need to share with the rest of the class.' (I taught preschool before this). She looked right at me, and said, without the slightest embarrassment, 'I was just telling her that I think you have a cute butt.'
I was teaching a Communications class, and we were discussing communications in the workplace, and I looked down at the textbook. After seeing what the next section was, I said "Ok, moving on to the next section, titled 'Sexual Harassment.'" Everyone roared with laughter.
A couple weeks later, at a baseball game paid for by the school, she came on to me really hard, with my fiancée right there."
2. Ruined surprise.
"My then-fiancée was a high school math teacher.
One day she thought she saw a note being passed, but she wasn't sure, so she waited. Then she thought she saw it again. Finally she saw it, walked over, and took it.
It was a wedding card, signed by half of the class before she took it.
"Not a teacher. Someone in my class had a cold and wiped their snot into a scrap piece of paper, as they didn't have a tissue. They then scrunched it up and left it on the side of their desk. Teacher saw this, thought it was a note and grabbed the paper, going through the usual fanfare of 'the importance not passing notes around.' The look on her face when she opened it was priceless."
4. Always read the note first.
"In 3rd grade (~1996) my class was performing a play. I had a total of two lines of dialog but I really wanted to get it right so I copied my lines from the text book, folded it up, and stuck it in my pocket. The teacher only saw the last bit if this but assumed I was sticking a note in my pocket and told me to get up I front of the class and read it out loud. I recited my lines verbatim and handed the note to the teacher. Without reading it she assumed I was being a smarta-- and sent me the the principal's office where I received recess detention and a call to my parents. Not sure why I never asked anyone to read the note, but I didn't.
The next day when I arrived at school my teacher pulled me aside and told me that she had read the 'note,' realized what it was and apologized profusely. She took me down to the office to call my parents and let me go out for two periods of recess. Props Mrs. W for the life lesson about humility and doing the right thing, I still remember."
5. You shall not pass.
"I'm the student in the story, not the teacher (yeah, I know but my current students all text or message on their laptops rather than passing physical notes).
In 7th grade science class my friend and I passed notes to each other through the guys sitting between us. Our teacher caught one of the boys with the note but knew it wasn't him because it had enough doodles of hearts/flowers on it. She opened it up to read to the class to catch whoever did write it.
However... the note was written completely in Tolkien's elvish alphabet and she couldn't read a word. Most of the class knew that it had to be me and my friend cause were the only LOTR nerds in the class obsessed enough to teach ourselves the elvish alphabet, but thankfully no one ratted us out.
We were hoping that writing notes in elvish would keep the boys from reading about my friend's massive crush on one of them, but it ended up also saving us from getting in trouble."
6. Leave the parodies to Weird Al.
"Probably late, but in 8th grade the teacher took the note and made me read it. I didn’t even think to make something up. So I blurted out what was on it. 'We Beat the Meats: The Story of Three Male Prostitutes Who Made it the Hard Way' parody of 'we beat the streets.' Thought I was so clever."
7. Paper planes.
"I am not a teacher, but I have a story which was kind of the opposite.
When I was in college I was in a large math lecture hall two times a week, and me and my friends took to making paper planes and throwing them down from the back of the theater.
We did it often and I am sure we thought we were hilarious.
Somehow nobody said a word except for the occasional snicker and it went on like that, on and off for the semester.
Then, on the last day I remember writing 'happy Christmas Dr Jones!' on a plane and throwing it down, seeing it land in front of the lecturer. He blew a fuse, and started shouting about how this had been going on all semester and he thought it was a disgrace. Then he picked up the plane and read the message, got very embarrassed and meekly said 'thank you.'
I still cringe to think of my childish actions, but it did give me that moment of connection with the lecturer (before failing his class)."
8. That time of the month.
"In high school a girl in class passed a note to another girl, asking if she had a pad or tampon. Teacher completely blew up, started yelling at them, and asked them to read it out loud. They did, and the teacher, who was an older man, immediately calmed down and let it go. I think he was more embarrassed than the girls."
"Not a teacher but junior year in high school I got caught passing a note to my friend. The teacher took the note and looked at it, as if she was going to read it out loud. She decided to make me stay after class and talk to her. The note told my friend that I was pregnant...
Thankfully she didn't tell my parents, she left it up to me. I told them, mom was actually kind of excited, step-dad always hated me so he wasn't pleased. I had the baby, he's now 14 and goes to the same high school I went to. He is an amazing kid."
10. Accidentally outing someone...
"I have a great one. Not me but my mom has been a teacher for 35+ years. She's retiring next year at 61...
Best note accidentally outed two female students. It said something about... 'that kiss in the bathroom was a spiritual awakening' or something way too corny and deep... teenagers... teenage girls.
My mom knows I'm bi so she told this story in the context of how she accidentally outed someone. Super painful and cringy. The teen was crying and shaking reading it.
She screened notes afterwards. Now, according to her, there are less notes passed probably due to social media, texting, etc. But what a blow."
11. Some parting words of advice.
"I’m a teacher. Most teachers would never do this. You’re just asking for trouble, and best case scenario you embarrass your student and ruin your relationship with them. When I have taken up notes (which doesn’t happen anymore now that they all have cell phones) I just leave them folded and throw them away in my desk. I tell them I have no business or desire to read their personal notes but that I don’t appreciate them being a distraction in my classroom. Always had pretty good results with that."