Education Politics/Community

10 Truths Teachers Want You to Know

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Teachers are supposed to be somehow greater than human, welcoming and accepting of all; submissive to students, their parents, and the general public; and willing to do anything for nothing no matter how time consuming or emotionally and physically fatiguing.  It’s the job we signed up for.  Nothing less than perfection is acceptable.

…is what a lot of people seem to think.

Well, I’m here to tell you that teachers are just humans who were crazy enough to think they could impact the world positively and so took on the responsibilities of doing just that to the best of their abilities, which means they’re far from impeccable and also not unlike people in other professions in many ways.

As such, I’m inclined to share the following.  Here are 10 truths about teachers that people who expect us to be perfect need to realize.

#1 We don’t like everyone.  Many people seem appalled to learn that teachers don’t like every student, parent, or colleague they encounter, stating with incredulity that “teachers definitely have favorites.”  Uh, yeah.  We do.  Does every lawyer, cashier, waitress, or doctor like all their clients, customers, or patients?  I don’t think so.  Chances are, if a student (or parent!) has ever uttered “suck my balls” or “this assignment is fucking stupid” within our earshot, we don’t like them, and rightly so.  Like any other human, the way we’re treated dictates the ways we perceive and treat others.  So get over it.

#2 I know we said we were totally going to grade that, but we didn’t.  It is physically impossible for us to grade every assignment or activity we assign.  It goes against all rules of scientific likelihood, plus we’re not superheroes with the ability to stop time as we see fit (click here if you’re curious about just exactly how long it takes teachers to do their jobs).  Learning isn’t about a number in the grade book, anyway.  Everything we assign is intended to help students understand and succeed.  Instead of worrying about how a task will impact their percentage or getting mad when they get something back with a check mark instead of a number value, students should try to immerse themselves in the schooling experience for once.  Trust us.  We’ve got this.

#3 We don’t believe perfection is a sign of learning.  Parents especially need to listen up on this one.  Not everything a student does deserves an A+.  If it did, what would be the point of the student coming to school?  It would mean the student already knows everything, rendering the learning process useless.  Learning is about making mistakes and growing from them.  There is something wrong with a student who earns a perfect score on everything.  S/he is either misplaced in the course or is chronically dishonest about her/his abilities.

#4 We know when parents do their students’ homework.  I try to impart upon my students that their writing style is like their underwear preferences; each person’s is unique, and we can tell when a student is wearing someone else’s.  The same holds true for just about anything a student hands in.  Students are often flabbergasted that I’m able to tell right away if something has been plagiarized.  Truth is, it’s easy to do.  If it doesn’t “sound” or look like something the student is capable of or normally produces, chances are it’s fraudulent.  You’re not doing your kids any favors by “helping” them more than you should or by doing their work for them, parents.  You’re actually hindering them and in many cases doing irreparable harm.  After all, how are they ever supposed to learn anything if they never have to struggle with it?

#5 There is such a thing as a stupid question.  We hear them daily.  Asking what one’s supposed to do after the teacher’s announced it five times, questioning if one has to take the test s/he’s known about since last week because s/he was absent yesterday, and surveying the class to see if they know that one guy from the one movie who was also on the one show in the middle of a lesson are all examples.  That’s all stupid.  Really, really stupid.  And we can’t handle it in large quantities.  So please quit it already.

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#6 We can tell when you are high, drunk, or otherwise under the influence.  We weren’t dropped out of the sky yesterday.  We can totally tell if a student smokes an entire bowl before school or hijacks Mom and Dad’s liquor cabinet on his or her lunch break.  The same holds true for parents.  Please don’t come to conferences or open house hammered or blown out of your mind.  And if you can’t resist, at least pop a breath mint before corralling us into your psychedelic nightmare.

#7 That silence that fills the time between you saying something stupid, rude, or annoying and us responding is us replying with what we really want to say in our heads.  If I had a dollar for each time I’ve had to internally tell somebody to fuck off, I’d be hella rich.  We may not be allowed to suggest you shove sharp classroom objects up your rear when you attack, name call, or harass us, but you better believe we are thinking it.  Oh, boy, are we thinking it.

#8 It’s not our fault students have a lot of homework to do.  You think we want to assign mass quantities of work?  Nothing about spending extra time preparing the work, collecting it, and grading it appeals to us.  If parents and students want someone to blame, I suggest they turn to their politicians and policymakers.  These people are increasing the number of standards students are expected to master each year and are holding teachers accountable based on kids’ test scores.  The stupid elementary Common Core math worksheets, for example, are not our doing, people, so please direct your disdain to the powers that be.  Truth be told, we hate that shit just as much as you.

#9 You are not our only priority.  We have mad love for our students, but at the end of the day, there are 150 of them (or 30 in elementary school, which is equivalent) and only one of us.  We have our own families and lives to attend to as well, so have a little patience if we don’t respond to a phone call or email within 20 seconds of receiving it.  We’ll get on that as soon as we can.  We promise.

#10 Our jobs aren’t just about teaching.  If we were responsible only for educating students, we would be kicking ass and taking names like never before in the classroom.  Unfortunately, our time isn’t just for teaching.  We also serve as secretaries (making copies, recording messages, drafting emails and letters, sending faxes, etc.), maintenance personnel (cleaning desks, washing white boards, repairing tables and chairs, scrubbing carpets, dusting counters, etc.), PR reps (attending school-related events, spreading the word about school bonds, publicly supporting board of ed candidates, etc.), political analysts (keeping track of legislation affecting schools, contacting state reps, lobbying for school reform, etc.), data analysts (collecting student test score data, looking for patterns in data, brainstorming interventions to positively impact data, etc.), office personnel (attending staff meetings, keeping meeting minutes, distributing staff and student surveys, etc.), committee leaders (heading the school improvement team, organizing parent communication, maintaining AdvancEd accreditation, etc.), social workers (contacting parents, reporting strange student/family behaviors, providing monies for school supplies and events, etc.), and psychologists (counseling students, listening to struggling parents, reporting signs of abuse, etc.).  Please respect all that we have to do.  Just because you do or did attend school for 13 years of your life doesn’t mean you have even an ounce of knowledge about what it’s like to be an educator today.

What other truths do teachers want people to know?