What Not to Say to a Teacher

September 30, 2015
This is my sixth year teaching, and I'm loving it again. In a positive environment and with the right support, teaching can be one of the most rewarding careers out there. With that being said, there are still some things that I'd rather NOT hear on a regular basis. Here goes nothing...

1) "We will meet about it during your planning time." That time is precious and most likely I have about a million other things on my to-do list. Last year, I did not get a lunch break, so my only time away from my students all day was my 50 minute planning period. During that time, I always had a ton of grading to do, copies to make for the following day (who wants to wait in the long line at the copy machine in the morning??), e-mails to respond  to, and parents to call. Oh, and this was the only time during the day that I was technically free to use the bathroom, so of course I made a pit stop there. Unfortunately for me, we had our grade level meeting on Fridays, I had to meet with the district mentor on Tuesdays, and one of the other days was ALWAYS taken by one of the coaches. I was lucky to get 1-2 times a week free to actually plan. On days when our planning periods were taken away (so most days,) I seriously had not one moment alone. The sad thing was that I went in early and stayed late as well, so every day was a 10-11 hour day or more likely with no break! This year I am blessed with ample planning time, which is a rarity in the field of education. Amazingly, there are days when I finally feel "caught up," although I still stay over sometimes. When I do stay an hour or two over to work, I'm not bitter about it because some days I have extra time to just chat with my co-teacher, so it evens out. The extra planning time helps me prepare as a teacher and I know that I'm able to deliver better lessons!

2) "It's raining. You have to have indoor recess." Yes, hearing this is upsetting to many students, but it's really me as the teacher who is the most bummed out. Kids need time to run around, socialize, play, and work their large motor skills. While there are some quiet indoor games to play, this isn't an equal substitute for the time they miss when they should be outside. It is recommended that children in early childhood get at least one hour of exercise a day. It's hard to accomplish that when cooped up in a classroom with limited space.

3) "Miss K, this fell off the wall." I had to battle with classroom decorations falling off the wall all year last year. We were told that we weren't allowed to use hot glue gun because it would damage the paint on the wall, so we were only permitted to use masking tape. Of course that meant our decorations were falling down left and right, especially because of the humidity. Our air conditioner was turned off at night and over the weekends, so that didn't help. Every morning my students would hand me about 5 things that had fallen. It's still early in the year for me this time around, so I haven't had to deal much with this yet, but I'm sure it's coming.

4) "Just stay after school so that we can meet." Okay, I'd much rather meet after school than during my planning time (see #1), BUT I like to be asked and not told that I have to stay! I mean, what if (dare I say it??) I had plans. In the past, sometimes I did have places to be, and I just had to rearrange everything for a surprise meeting with a parent or colleague. I have no problem meeting anyone after school, but please be respectful and schedule a meeting with me instead of just assuming. Again, I don't really have this problem at my current school...Have I mentioned that I love it here?

5) "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." No one has ever said this to me directly, thank goodness, but what a terrible way to ignorantly slam an entire profession. Yes, I'm sure that there are some teachers who are only teaching because they can't do what they really want, but there are people like that in almost every field! I will say that before I ever taught, I thought it seemed like a stress-free job. While I always respected my teachers, I thought they had it easy because until I started teaching, I had no idea about all the behind-the-scenes action. Those hands-on lessons that my teachers delivered while they circulated the room and casually guided our learning must have required so much prep work. Now that I've done it myself, I really admire my childhood teachers so much more!

6) "Unfortunately ________ (insert name of favorite student here) will be moving away." Usually this is something that is told to me with not much notice and suddenly I'm without my favorite little angel that makes my day 100 times more tolerable with his/her cuteness. I totally get attached to my students! When I think about some of my past students, I even get heartache. Also, why does it always seem like the students with the less-than-stellar behavior stick around all year?!

7) "The Promethean board isn't working." (Feel free to replace the Promethean board with any other kind of technology you might use for a lesson.) Just hearing those words would make me break out into a sweat. At most schools, technology is used throughout the day to enhance the lesson, but last year our lesson plans for 1st grade WERE our flip charts for the Promethean board. In my lessons, I tried to make them hands-on and interactive and also tried to include music and short videos. Without the technology working, I had to improvise by using just a regular old whiteboard for everything. It never kept the students engaged that long. Plus, your students can tell when you aren't as prepared! We do not have a Promethean board to use at the school I'm currently at, but students will start using their i-Pads in the class next week. I've never used i-Pads with students just because I haven't had the opportunity. Students have to type in a long username before they can log on. It's harder than it sounds when you have 25 five and six year olds. Also, our school's internet is not reliable and frequently cuts out. I am always going to have a back up plan, but the students are SO excited about using their i-Pads, so I'm sure they will be equally frustrated if we can't log on. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

8) "I threw up this morning, but my mom said I had to come to school." I'm such a germophobe, so this is never what I want to hear. Like most teachers out there, I have gotten sick from my students. Preparing for a sub is work in itself, and when I have to miss a day, I always worry. Seeing as how at my current school we get zero sick days, I want to try to avoid illness as much as possible. 

9) "In three weeks, little Johnny will be going away for a week. Can I have all the make up work for him now?" If you want the honest truth, I have never planned that far ahead. Last year I had to make a lot from scratch or at least find a ton of stuff on Teachers Pay Teachers. I didn't feel like there was much available at my school in terms of resources, so no, I never had all the materials ready that far in advance. Right now I am waiting on the English lead to give me some workbooks so that I can base my plans for the following week off of them. Even if I wanted to plan right now, I couldn't really do it without the materials I'm waiting on. Also, lesson plans change so much and good teachers adjust them accordingly based on the needs of their students. I find myself planning for a whole week and revising nightly--that's what works the best for me. We have meetings with our grade level and the content might have to change because of what the other teachers say, so that's another reason why planning way far in advance does not work best for time management in my experience. 

10) "I don't understand. He doesn't act this way at home." I get why parents get frustrated if their child has behavior problems at school but is fine at home, but school is a completely different environment. At home there aren't about 20 other kids with one adult in the room. Plus, school has a whole set of demands that aren't placed on the child at home. Luckily, this also works in my favor. I've had many parents tell me things like, "Chrissy (yes, that's a made up name!) throws fits at home and hits me. I can't believe she is so good at school and doesn't cause any problems."

What do people say about your profession that bothers you? Would you be interested in reading a "What to Say to a Teacher" post? 

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