Cartoon of Teacher Dumpster Diving
Illustration by Brenna Kilpatrick, '25

Read Time: 4 minutes

Teachers are experts at making lemonade when life gives them lemons. And based on the responses when the McKay School asked on social media for stories of classroom disasters that teachers can laugh about now, teachers are also good at making lessons out of distractions, bonding out of wandering, or making closer connections out of showing up to an unexpected parent meeting in neon clothing and pigtails. Here are a few of our favorite “disasters,” edited for length and clarity.

The Dumpster Divers
I was doing my Teaching English Language Learners (TELL) practicum this spring in the school that I’ll be interning for in the fall. I was in a fifth-grade classroom. At the end of the year, the teacher who was moving into our room was sending her students to carry in all of her stuff.

The recycling bucket those students had brought looked a lot like our class lunch-box bin. The students from the other class accidentally put recyclables on top of the lunches, took both bins, and emptied them into the recycling dumpster.

When the three girls who had lost lunches found out, they started crying and freaking out about how their moms would be mad that they lost their lunch boxes. We went dumpster diving and found their lunch boxes, but some of their food was gone, and they didn’t want to eat the food from the garbage. The teacher who was moving into the room ended up paying for them to have school lunch.

This helped me realize that in teaching, unexpected things will always happen, but the students are still just children. Something that may not seem like a big deal to you can be a big deal to them, so validate their emotions and support them.
—Brianna Stoker

The Field Trip Freakout 
I had planned a fun BYU trip for my life skills class. We went to an animal show, visited the exhibits, and walked to the Creamery on Ninth. So far, so good!

After finishing our delicious-but-chaotic lunch at the Creamery, it was time to load up the bus and head back to school. I was helping another student and asked a classroom aide to do our head count. Everyone was on the bus ready to go, or so I thought. I rushed myself and the student I was helping onto the bus, asked the aide if we were good, and, after a thumbs-up, told the bus
driver to head out.

As we turned from the parking lot onto 900 East, the kids start screaming. I stood up and saw them all pointing at one of my students standing in front of the Creamery, wide-eyed and slowly waving goodbye to us.

Now, do I always take head count three times before we leave? Yes! I have learned that
when you delegate something really important, you should double-check just to be sure.
—Mary Robles

The Phantom Dishwasher
I teach third grade. I had a cute student with ADHD who at times needed a little break—usually just a walk around the classroom. After a while I realized he still was not in his seat. I looked up
and saw that he had been washing his hands for about five minutes. 

When he was back in his seat, I noticed that my lunch dishes were out of the sink and leaned against the wall drying. 

I said to my student, “Did you wash my dishes?”

He said, “Yeah, did you not want me to?”

I told him thank you and kept teaching. Later I pulled him aside and told him that I appreciated him doing my dishes and that he had been so kind. I didn’t correct the behavior since I didn’t want him to feel he had done something wrong.

Sometimes the best things in classrooms happen when students aren’t in their seats, and it’s important to look for victories outside regular class expectations. My student did something kind, and I felt that should be rewarded. And, bonus: I went home with clean lunch dishes!
—Mikaela Hoggard

The Awkward Neon
Red Ribbon Week is always filled with spirit days. One of these days was Neon Day, with the theme “We are too bright for drugs!” As a teacher, it is fun to be part of the school activities and join in. I wore bright pink Crocs, neon-splattered leggings, a neon green muumuu, and neon jewelry. And I had my hair in crazy pigtails in every color.

I killed it—until I was called down to the office. I was greeted by my principal, who immediately asked, “Do you have something else to wear?” A parent had arrived and wanted to meet about some concerns. I had nothing to wear to this impromptu meeting except my neon ensemble.

I started the meeting profusely apologizing for my school spirit and said that I hoped it would not distract from the important issues we needed to talk about. I now keep an extra outfit in my closet, just in case.
—Mary Robles