5 Phrases Your Child’s Teacher Does Not Want to Hear

by on November 18th, 2010
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My beloved pet Clawdelia sat on the veterinarian’s table, having not consumed any food for a number of days. The veterinarian rattled off a list of hypotheticals regarding possible medication, treatments, and painstaking surgeries that gave my elderly cat only a slim chance of survival. Through teary eyes, I asked a question I probably should not have uttered: “If she was your pet, what action would you take?” I could tell instantly that my question was a major faux pas, one the doctor had heard several million times and disliked answering since it was a tender, personal question. It belonged in the same category as asking a police officer “Have you ever killed anyone?” or buying the wife a vacuum cleaner for her birthday (I plead not guilty to this offense).

Teachers, too, dislike certain questions and phrases. Immensely. As a mid-career educator, I have heard some of these more times than I care to count, and in some cases I would rather cut my ears off a la Vincent Van Gogh than to hear them uttered again.

1. Why did you become a teacher?

Really? Are you seriously asking this question? It’s like asking somebody why they watch television or why are your socks white. Sometimes, the cadence of this question makes it worse. In a mocking, leering tone, this question almost screams to the educator one of two things: What were you thinking? or “Couldn’t you have done something better?” Understandably, this question is often a conversation starter, usually followed by the inane, if not obvious observation, “You must really like kids!” Bingo.

2. You are so lucky you have summers off!

No, if I were lucky I would have been born insanely rich instead of so unbelievably handsome and charming! Most teachers actually do not have summers off, since the majority of us have to supplement our salaries with a second job. Or third. And to suggest this fiction also suggests lethargy on our part, a fallacy that does not score any extra credit points.

3. You are just an over-glorified babysitter!

I wish! Let’s do some quick math. Let us assume the typical elementary school teacher has a class of 24 students for only 6 hours. Now let’s say each parent pays their child’s educator the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour in lieu of state taxes. This would mean a weekly salary of $1044! Tack on an extra $2.75 an hour (we do, after all, have a college degree) and the weekly sum balloons to $1440. This equates to an annual salary of almost $75,000. My eyes dilate just imagining the possibilities with that kind of spending power! So no, we are not babysitters, and certainly not glorified.

4. My taxes pay your salary.

Indeed. And as previously covered in item #3, I am performing a service for pennies on the dollar. Plus, I am preparing your son or daughter to be a productive and efficient member of society. Education merits a lot of bang for its buck when parents, teachers, and administration work together to guide a child in the proper direction. And it takes a village to do this, including precious tax dollars.

5. My child would never do a thing like that…

Wanna bet? This ill-timed phrase is basically calling a teacher a liar. Or hallucinatory. An instant favorite during parent conferences, I often have to bite my tongue and refrain from saying, “Yup, I was just kidding. Your son is a perfect angel from the heavens and we are truly blessed with his presence.” Seriously though, educators have better things to do than huddle together football style and create fictitious occurrences about a child. Overlooking negative behavior and neglecting to acknowledge that it is happening can lead to disaster in the future for the parent and child alike. Parents need to police their sons and daughters at a young age in order to prevent policing by actual officers in the future.

Some of these comments are innocent enough. I guess the realm of education holds many secrets to people “on the outside.” Other statements are said with contemptible malice and will not be greeted with a warm smile (well, at least not one that is genuine and sans grinding teeth). But, much like asking a veterinarian what she would do with a dying pet, taking precaution with what one says remains a terminal courtesy. The question remains: Does this courtesy still have a pulse?

More from this Contributor:

The Advantages of Keeping a Teacher Reflection Journal

Teachers: Take Your Arguments out of Students’ View

Absenteeism and Parental Accountability: Please Get Your Child to School!


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