The 5 absolute worst times to bump into students

Summer's here! Which means students aren't. But sometimes they are - and it's awkward. Here's how to handle the most cringeworthy run-ins

Haili Hughes

school holidays

As teachers, we all, naturally, love seeing our students any time. Except when we don’t. Like when we’re in the supermarket, or dealing with our own children, or hungover. Or all of the above.

But pupils have a horrifying habit of popping up when you are least prepared for them. So how to deal with it?

Situation: The holiday hello


You’ve been saving up all year, excited at the prospect of getting away and relaxing. But as you lie back on a sun-lounger, bikini on, cocktail in hand, you hear the dreaded words: “Hello, Miss!” Suddenly, your fortnight of sun and sangria is fading into two weeks of sharing dinner times with parents who want to discuss their child’s progress.

Solution: The key here is to be friendly but firm. By all means say hello and give them a wave but if they encroach on your personal space, politely remind them that this is your time to relax and you will see them in September.

Situation: Doctor dilemma

fake phone call

If you live in the area where you teach, you do, unfortunately, run the risk of bumping into students and their families in the doctor’s surgery. This has happened to me, but the pupil and their parent were polite enough to smile and turn away. 

But you may be unfortunate enough to come across the kind of child or parent who will sit next to you and proceed to ask you about what you’re seeing the doctor about, while describing their own condition in detail. 

Solution: The best option here is to use a prop, be that magazine, mobile phone or that book you have in the bottom of your bag. Look particularly engrossed in whatever you are doing and hopefully they will get the message.

If this fails, pretend you have a telephone call and talk to somebody imaginary, so they can’t initiate a conversation. Just make sure your phone is on silent so that it doesn’t go off and give the game away.

Situation: Supermarket sneak-up


It’s never seems to be the vegetable aisle that students pop up in. Oh no, if you’re going to run into a student, it’ll be while you’re buying tampons, or condoms, or some specialist body odour product. You feel a tentative tap on your shoulder, or hear a snigger, and want the ground to swallow you up.

Solution: I am afraid the only option here is to pretend you have not heard them and move nonchalantly across to the shampoos. Hopefully, when they see what you were looking at, they will be as embarrassed as you.

Situation: Waxing worries


You need to get holiday-ready so you're off to get waxed. Your usual beautician is full, so instead you book in one a bit closer to work, so you can head straight there. But as you walk in, you see that it is an ex-pupil waiting for you and the mortification on her face is plain to see. 

Solution: The only option here is to get an urgent text message and have to rearrange your appointment (also known as running for the hills, screaming inwardly).

Situation: Teacher on the town


It’s the end of term and you’re desperate for a few quiet drinks to mark the occasion. A couple of hours later, you’re on a table outside doing a perfect rendition of Madonna’s Like a Virgin, complete with dance moves. But out of the corner of your eye, you spot a student sat with her mum, having a coke. 

Solution: I think this one is a fair cop. Your best bet is to go over and say hello; they have seen it all now and to be honest, showing your more human side to students is never a bad thing.

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Haili Hughes

Haili Hughes is an English teacher at Saddleworth School in Oldham, Greater Manchester. She tweets @HughesHaili

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