Swapping names or forgetting keys, everyone makes blunders, including teachers.
Swapping names or forgetting keys, everyone makes blunders, including teachers.

Picture: Type tank

Blundering in front of the class

Everyone makes mistakes, including teachers. Fortunately, it is learned.

Citizenship teacher Numan Yilmaz remembers the biggest blunder of his career as if it were yesterday. “I had just started the part-time history teacher training course and ended up at Don Bosco College in Volendam through the employment agency. To my surprise, I was accepted while I was still in the middle of my education. I did have some experience with guest lectures, but this was really something different. To be honest, I didn't do anything about it pedagogically and didactically. But the worst part was that at one point I had to leave the classroom for a while. Fearing that the students would roam the halls, I locked the classroom door. Stupid in any case, but certainly in a place like Volendam where years before many victims had been killed in the fire in café De Hemel. When I came back, some students were very upset. I was scared to death. After six months I stopped there and first finished my education. That job in Volendam was definitely not a success, but I learned a lot from it.”

I was scared to death

The Facebook call for teachers to share beginner mistakes or blunders garnered several dozen responses. Not very much when you consider that tens of thousands of teachers are members of the various tutorial groups on Facebook. Apparently not everyone is eager to admit a mistake. A teacher jokingly reports that his career consisted of a series of mistakes. Another describes the day he decided to go into education as his biggest blunder.


A number of teachers comically swapped names or persons. For example, teacher Erica Elsäcker mistook the remedial educationalist for an intern and Jolanda Maas called the mother of a student who had misbehaved. At least that's what she thought, but at the end of the day it turned out that she had called the wrong student's mother. "She had been disappointed in her child, completely unjustly, so I immediately called her to apologize."

Teacher Erica mistook the orthopedagogue for an intern

Secondary school teacher Corien Moes made a painful mistake when she called the parents of Stefan, a student who repeatedly failed to hand in an assignment. When the mother answered, she immediately realized that she had dialed the wrong Stefan's number. But the damage was already done. “This Stefan would be called between 15.00 and 16.00 pm if he had failed, and when I called at 15.50 pm, according to his mother, he had run upstairs in a hysterical mood, convinced that he had failed. Fortunately, he turned out to be successful. During the graduation ceremony wherever I was, he spoke publicly about my action. Well, then I should have paid more attention.”


A social teacher who prefers not to use name and surname in the Education magazine her students wanted to present the film Utøya, about the bloody attacks in Norway in 2011. “At that time, two different films about this terrible event were released, one was childproof, the other was not. You may have guessed which one was set up. It resulted in many angry emails from parents with apparently 'traumatized' children. I also thought that was grossly exaggerated.”

MBO teacher Milja Zwart thought she had someone else in front of her when she, as a young teacher, gave information during the open day of the pedagogical work course. “I got into conversation with three people, a woman in a suit and two men in a suit. They asked many substantive questions, including about my experiences with personalized learning. I talked about it enthusiastically, but it did feel somewhat like a cross-examination. When I asked what kind of work they did, the two men replied that they were both school principals. The woman told me that she was a colleague of mine and was on the board of the MBO institution. She turned out to be my boss. My cheeks were ashamed as the three of them laughed loudly. Fortunately, they complimented me on my good story, but this incident has haunted me for six years now. Colleagues regularly tease me about it.”


Sometimes things also go wrong in the workplace with tests. A primary school teacher, who at the last minute prefers to tell her story anonymously, had just finished the PABO for a month when she had to take a Cito test in group 7. The day before, she prepared with her duo colleague, who is also team leader. He urged her: "First point out the rules of verb spelling, have them underline the subject and have them explicitly check the tense (present or past) in the sentence."

Even with tests sometimes things go wrong in the workplace

On the day of the test, she saw that it consisted of twenty sentences, with the complete verb form in parentheses in each sentence. She did not read the manual carefully and judged that the test could be completed independently by the students. “Afterwards, an older colleague offered to mark the test. He came up to me and asked me if I had taken the test correctly. It turned out to be a dictation. I was shocked and felt very guilty.” The story ended with a sizzle. Her colleagues were forgiving and the students had no problem taking the dictation after all. “So my mistake wasn't too bad in the end, but since then I've read the manual twice with every test.”


In his younger years, Dutch teacher Sjoerd de Boer worked at a school community in Ede. “One day I drove my moped from Veenendaal to school, parked it in the bicycle shed and walked to the entrance where I was approached by students: whether the rehearsal was difficult. I was shocked, because I had completely forgotten, and I immediately admitted that. I then devised and dictated the complete rehearsal on the spot. And it turned out to be a good rehearsal too.” De Boer even appeared to have made an indelible impression on a pupil who later told him that he had decided to go into education partly because of this incident. “I personally think that the good atmosphere in that class had a lot to do with that.”

'Whether the rehearsal was difficult? I was shocked, because I had smoothly forgotten'

MBO teacher Marjolein de Roos made a huge blunder. At least, that's what she thinks herself. But one that made her discover something about herself. “Almost twenty years ago I taught sport & behavior in a level 2 class of the mbo program Sport & Exercise. In one lesson I could only cover two pages, while it was about simple material with many pictures. I didn't understand why students had so much trouble with it. At the back of the class sat a boy who asked the same question several times. When he raised his hand again, I said, "If you don't understand by now, you're really stupid." The class was shocked and so was I, so I quickly said, "If you don't understand it by now, I'll explain it to you after class." I'm still ashamed of this, but luckily the student in question was able to laugh about it." De Roos worked with level 2 classes for another two years before finally stating in a conversation with her supervisor that she did not consider herself suitable for this target group. "He thought it was brave that I mentioned that, and I have not regretted for a moment that I have honestly discussed this."

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