13 Ways Teaching Is a Lot Like Being in Mission Impossible

When you’re a teacher, nothing is impossible.

Why Teaching Is Like Mission Impossible

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get into the minds of children and infiltrate their brains with vast amounts of knowledge, including book smarts, life skills, respect, manners, social skills, emotional intelligence, and sometimes even basics, like using the potty. You have exactly 180 days to complete this mission, at which point a new batch of recruits will arrive with the exact same directives. 

Here are 13 ways that teaching is like Mission Impossible and how you can handle every situation like a boss.

1. A student asks to use the bathroom during the most critical part of a lesson—and five minutes before everyone leaves for lunch. 

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Your mission: Decipher if this is a true bathroom emergency or simply a ruse to leave class early.

Mission accomplished: Quickly correlate the number of times this student requests to use the restroom with their ability to be trusted, while also watching for heightened wiggling or crotch grabbing. Use this intel to make an informed decision.

2. Someone ate the tasty snack you stashed in the fridge and have been thinking about since third period.

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Your mission: Intercept the offender or at least prevent a reoccurrence of the incident.

Mission accomplished: Clearly and consistently label every single item you put in the community fridge or squeeze your own personal minifridge into your classroom.

3. You open a student’s desk at the end of the year, not knowing what you’ll find, but there’s a scary smell. 

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Your mission: Get the offending item removed stat without reacting to the stench in a way that could embarrass the student.

Mission accomplished: Momentarily stop breathing. Announce that it’s time for an impromptu, yet thorough, desk cleaning. All trash hastily goes into the garbage, and the garbage can goes into the hall. A quick call to the custodian staff gets it emptied, and all is right with your nose again.

4. You’re attempting to complete the last lessons of the school year.

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Your mission: Cram in actual learning during a time when most brain activity has completely shut down.

Mission accomplished: Take a two- to ten-minute break by playing a quick game or running around outside. A brief pause and physical movement can do wonders to turn brains back on and get students ready to listen.

5. A third of your students are out sick, and you’re trying to avoid the germs.

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Your mission: Don’t get sick. Don’t get sick. Don’t get sick.

Mission accomplished: Wash your hands, make them wash their hands, and then wash all the desks. Repeat often.

6. You see a kid doing The Floss in your classroom—again.

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Your mission: Keep your cool through each year’s latest distracting fad, including fidget spinners, squishies, dance moves, and odd phrases like, “That’s so Gucci,” which apparently means “cool.”

Mission accomplished: Set some boundaries in the room, like banning fidget toys and dance moves during instructional time, and try to remember all the goofy trends you followed as a kid.

7. There’s free lunch in the teachers’ lounge!

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Your mission: Get to the food before all the good stuff is gone, because no one wants to be hangry and who doesn’t love a surprise snack?

Mission accomplished: Make your way to the teachers’ lounge as soon as you can (no running in the halls, please) or email a coworker to grab you something if you can’t sneak away. Alternatively, keep some favorite snacks stashed in a drawer.

8. You’re observing your students, who have been left to their own devices.

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Your mission: Get to know your students well enough to see what areas they need to work on. Sometimes it’s strictly academics; other times they need a hand with social or emotional issues.

Mission accomplished: If you see a red flag, tend to it. If you need reinforcements, reach out to the specialists in your building as well as administrators and parents.

9. A pipe in your school’s ancient infrastructure burst.

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You mission: No matter what surprise calamity may come, stay calm, whether or not class is in session.

Mission accomplished: Link up with your fellow teachers and work as a team to keep students safe. If any of your stuff is damaged, mourn the loss of it, remind yourself it’s just stuff, and then move on.

10. You have 24 report cards to complete, a complex lesson to teach, stacks of papers to grade, two parent meetings, and it’s an in-service day.  

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You mission: Get all the extra things done on top of the many things you already do.

Mission accomplished: Take it one day at a time and get done what you can each day. Keep your eye on the light at the end of the tunnel, ’cause this too shall pass.

11. Inspire students to learn, grow, and get them ready for the real world. Oh, and also occasionally deal with them puking, bleeding, or crying—sometimes all at once.

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Your mission: Help sculpt kids or young adults into good people who can get jobs and succeed after they leave your classroom.

Mission accomplished: Do your job as well as you can each day. Take a break here and there. Seek out ways to stay inspired and engaged. Take a team approach and collaborate with your peers to create a strong and supportive learning environment.

12. Your sweetest student has gone rogue.

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You mission: Don’t let your shock and disappointment take over and work to get the student back on track.

Mission accomplished: Call the student out on their behavior. Let them know you noticed something is different and want to know why. Check in with other teachers to see if they’ve seen out-of-the-ordinary behaviors, too. Keep each other updated on the status of things and strategies being used to help the student.

13. It’s the last day of school.

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You mission: Not to leave the building before the kids do.

Mission accomplished: Relish in everyone’s hard work. Say your goodbyes, pack up your room, and enjoy the break, ’cause you earned it!

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What are your mission impossible moments? Come and share (and get helpful advice) in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.

Plus, check out a teacher’s day as told by babies

13 Ways Teaching Is a Lot Like Being in Mission Impossible

Posted by Elizabeth Russell

I'm a freelance writer and mom to two (usually) awesome kiddos. Raised by a teacher and married to a principal, all things education have a special place in my heart.

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