Things Never To Say To A Teacher

A short little piece inspired by the tenth student in fifteen minutes to inquire about a test.

1. Have you graded our tests yet?

No.  Contrary to popular belief, I am not a Scantron machine.  Good thing, too, because to my knowledge, Scantron machines cannot grade short answer or essay questions which make up the bulk of your test.  And while I do consider myself a reasonably intelligent human being I have not yet perfected my reading skills to complete ninety, four-page tests in one hour (which is exactly how long it has been since you walked out of my classroom) even if I weren’t teaching the rest of the day or preparing your classes for tomorrow.  I reassure you that the second the tests are graded, the grades will be posted online because (also contrary to popular belief) I have better things to do than get my kicks by keeping already-graded-but-still-unentered exams around my house for added decor or extra toilet paper.  Even though I’m paid peanuts, even I can afford toilet paper.  So scoot your butt out of here and let me start digging through this pile o’ trees I just killed in the interest of furthering your education.

2.  Must be nice to have all that vacation:

Yes, yes it is.

It’s also nice to have twenty six minutes to eat your lunch, lovely to share a bathroom with 500 teenagers, and a delight to climb to the second floor every time I need access to a printer that works.

Oh wait…no it’s not.

Nor is it a party to work twelve hours a day when everybody pretends it’s just seven, never have enough money to buy supplies I need for my classroom (like the newest name-brand technology…or just staples.  Really would be happy with staples) or watch my profession get reamed in the news for not doing our job, while those doing the reaming cut the resources we’re actually given to do our job, then lay off a wad of us, increasing the job load for the three teachers left standing.

But yeah, the vacation’s pretty nice.

3.  I know you’re really busy, but…

Don’t.  Just don’t.

4.  Those who can, do.  Those who can’t, teach.

Hey, listen.  I need to run to the office for a second.  Can you keep a handle on this room of 30 teenagers for about 15 minutes?  I’m sure you’ll be fine.  Oh, and if you could make sure they learn some Calculus, that’d be great, too.  Don’t forget that Jodi’s allergic to peanuts, (I’m sure you know how to use an Epipen).  Eric and Bobby can’t be within a three-foot radius of one another.  Leena’s diabetic supplies are in the top right-hand corner of the desk, and the lesson always has to be differentiated for…never mind…of course you already know how to handle this, because you’re one of those gosh durn smart “doers.”

5.  But I need an A!

No, you don’t.

You need air, water, food, sleep and probably the occasional bowel movement.  You want an A.  But how you plan on going about getting it is entirely up to you.  I’ll just be over here in my little corner hangin’ out in case you decide to turn in some homework or ask for help on a concept or something.  You know, hypothetically speaking.

6.  Ugh.  How do you deal with teenagers all day?

You get year-end bonuses.  Or maybe quarterly bonuses.  Oooh…and raises.  And non-frozen salaries…

I change lives.

And I get year-end Christmas cookies.  And daily high fives….and pant-peeing laughter.  And non-conforming creativity…

I win.

So shove it and let me get back to work.

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308 Responses to Things Never To Say To A Teacher

  1. Awww thanks so much for the insight, I had no idea what the public thought about teachers, I’m really that clueless. I actually teach at a private school and make even less than public school teachers do. My description is from years ago and is no longer accurate. Almost every single teacher commenting on here did say that they’re thankful for their job. Perhaps you missed my point about us poking fun at ourselves? We did say it was hard, and as a non teacher yourself, you’re in no position to pass judgment on whether teaching is hard or not. I’m not passing judgment on whatever the hell it is that you do and telling you that you have it easy. You can’t say whether something is easy or not if you’ve never done it.

    P.S. No one here is whining; we’re discussing the harder and more frustrating parts of our jobs. Learn to read.

  2. John F Heagerty says:

    Wow. I guess I really hit a nerve. Who is antagonistic now?

  3. Aspiring…never mind that clod’s rhetoric. You and I both know that if we were going to whine, we’d ask for some cheese. Muenster is my favorite. ;-P

    I have no more energy to waste on that…oh wait…he didn’t like moron, so the reader can fill in the blank as he/she wishes. I’d rather use my efforts productively, perhaps counting the pixels on my television as I cook dinner and wait for student responses (homework assignment) to arrive in my in-box (so I can offer feedback before the final copy is due in the morning [awesome topic, actually]). 15, 16, 17…

    Moving on….

  4. John F Heagerty says:

    There also seems to be an inordinate amount of name-calling in your profession… Not that you people have a monopoly on such a thing, I’m sure.

    • singingpigs says:


      My hope is to get people talking about education (in my own obnoxious way!) And it’s working…although “spirited” might be a bit optimistic of a description for this conversation…

      First off, I have to give props to Mr. Heagerty for daring to post against the general flow of the rest of the comments on this blog. As a teacher, I’m constantly challenging my kids to think for themselves, and sometimes that means going against the grain. How boring would it be if we all towed the party line? I also, John, have to give you props for not only posting your opinion (even though on a teaching site, it’s likely to be unpopular)but posting it under your own name. I’ve gotten some anonymous comments as simplistic as “F*** teachers” that I’ve deleted, because if folks don’t have the *huevos* (as we say in Spanish) to post under their own name, and if they can’t at least back up their opinion, then it offers nothing in the way of contribution to this blog. You at least expressed your opinion in a coherent and honest manner.

      That being said, I’ll make a couple of my own points. First, I do hope you didn’t miss the tongue-in-cheek humor of the post. The list of Things Not To Say is not a public whine, as you call it, but a humorous response to the same questions/comments teachers hear again…and again…and again…I don’t know what you do for a living, but I’m guessing there are a number of things you deal with that get old after a while, simply from repetition. Also, if you peruse most of my posts, you’ll find I’m an admittedly snotty, outspoken, obnoxious human being who loves her job. I make sure (intentionally) that each post ends on an “up” note, a bit of laughter, or a reiteration of why I do what I do. The blog is meant simply to provoke a chuckle from other teachers – and if you aren’t a teacher, much of the subtler humor is probably lost in translation.

      Everyone, in the end, chooses their own profession. I chose one that does indeed get a lot of public scrutiny, a lot of tough parents and more than its fair share of politics. I can own that. But if it provides me fodder for writing, durn straight I’m going to use it! And I’m going to consider myself very well-informed on all issues education-related, despite the goofy tone of my blog. As for you, I’m sure you would like health care (wouldn’t we all) and summers off, but for whatever reasons you chose your profession and, like all, I’m sure it has its advantages and disadvantages.

      Aspiring Drummer and This is Why I Teach are two of my darling, wonderful readers who I adore because they care passionately (and, of course, because everyone loves folks reading their blog). And as tense as blog-dialog (ooh! It rhymes!) may get, I think we all are lucky to have people who care greatly about education.

      So you *all* rock. Thanks for the dialog. Thanks for caring. And that’s about the most serious line you can expect from me for a bit, because I’ve got to go make a post out of today’s mishap involving chocolate milk, a stuffed bear and a teenager’s face…

    • Susan says:

      Believe me, we’ve heard it all.

  5. Susan says:

    “Teachers (for the most part) are public servants paid by taxpayers.”

    Ahhh, finally… The “my parents pay your salary” in a hybrid form. Nicely played, sir, but not very original.

  6. newetl2010 says:

    I love number 2 the three month vacation. All teachers act like they are the only profession that works overtime, the only profession that is stressful, and the only profession that has technological problems at work. Yes we all have to walk to a different printer from time to time and I think all of us have purchased supplies with our own money to help us become successful. If teachers are so concerned about education why are they not the ones pushing for longer school years? And the teachers that really cared would volunteer to work a full year with no extra pay. And I do not want to hear complaining about pay because (in my state we can look up teachers’ pay) teachers make significant pay checks. One for example that only started teaching about a year ago makes almost $50K a year (for 9 months of work) just out of college. Some principals and longer tenured teachers make over $100K. Even if you consider a 12 hour day 5 days a week for a teacher that makes $50K that is over $20 an hour and we all know that it is not 12 hours every day. They put in extra time like we all do. It is time for teachers to quit crying about the tools they have, time to quit hiding behind unions, and get to work. Your job may not be the easiest in the world, but it is no more difficult than most and I do not know of another that only works 75% of the year.

    • singingpigs says:

      Hey Newtle2010-
      Thanks for commenting, thanks for being willing to go against the general grain of comments on this post, and thanks for doing so in a polite and coherent manner. Apparently, that’s not within everyone’s ability. 🙂 That being said, here’s my response to your comments (knowing that there is an infinite number of arguments and opinions around this hot topic.) 1) You make a fair amount of assumptions/generalizations in your comments. A good number of teachers will agree that year-round school is more beneficial to kids as it doesn’t give them two months in the summers to forget knowledge. It’s a hot topic, currently and one that is more divided among the teaching profession than you might give us credit for. The data absolutely supports avoiding long gaps in learning. Getting all teachers (and frankly, all families who enjoy vacation time) to agree nationwide…that will take awhile. 2) Tenure and unions – careful. I’m not a union teacher. Never have been. My entire school isn’t union. We can be hired or fired anytime. I’m actually pretty against unions and tenure because they do increase complacency and a total lack of creativity. Sadly they’re in place because of the high number of lousy administrators out there. (A whole different can of worms.) I think a much better solution could be found that ensures job security for teachers willing to go against the grain (some parents seem to believe it is their personal job to hire/fire teachers when really, it’s their job to elect the board that does so) but at the same time doesn’t allow for complacency in the classroom. Friend, there are a whole slew of teachers out there willing to find a better system than the current union one. 3) Pay. It varies from state to state, district to district. Check out more than a handful – at my school, a first year teacher makes under 30k, which is embarrassing if we say we’re a country that values education…and that’s fairly normal. 50k starting is absolutely an anomaly. Pay is also based on the amount of education. Overall, the only tenured teachers that are going to make 100k are ones with Ph.d who have been teaching for many, many years. That’s such a very small number in the grand scheme of things. As for admin, if they’re good and running a whole school or district – I’m all for paying them three figures! These are the people influencing the future doctors, lawyers and teachers. But it should be based on skill, not a formula, which is one huge area of improvement for education. (School test scores absolutely don’t reflect skill.)
      3) I hope you looked at the rest of the blog, because if you did, you’ll find it’s very tongue-in-cheek. I snark for the fun of it, but every post ends on a humorous or upbeat note, and it’s obvious I love what I do. If I wanted another job, I’d find one. What I want to do, though, is make my fellow teachers laugh…and I’m reasonably successful at this endeavor. I do take offense at the idea that teachers would volunteer to work an extra year at no pay. If you make that argument, I’d have to follow up with the argument that ANYONE who cares about the nation’s education should volunteer to teach a year for no pay. It’s the exact same. I put my money where my mouth is, however, and chose to teach even though I could make a lot more money elsewhere being bilingual, well-educated, and a fairly sharp person. I’d be happy to simply get credit for that. I would never tell anyone else that they “ought” to work for free – I know everyone must make a living, and everyone has varied passions. I was lucky enough to convert mine into a career, and it makes me sad that someone believes that I ought to do it for free. If you have kids and care about the system, would you teach a year for free if you thought you’d make a difference? If so – kudos to you. I believe most folks wouldn’t.

      Anyway – thanks again for reading. I’ll shut up now, as taking about education provokes the tendency to write a novel. Off to figure out what blog topic to tackle next! 🙂

      • newetl2010 says:

        I did notice that your writing was tongue-in-cheek. I did like that part. Please understand that this is not an attack on you personally but I hear these types of comments from teachers all the time (Not all are so well organized). I understand that not all districts are the same but from what I have found more are like my local district that not. But even at 30K for a brand new college graduate comes to about 40K for a full years work. 40K for anyone right out of college is pretty good. The other thing I see is teachers that make approx. a 50% raise in 5 or 6 years. Like I said before my state publishes salaries and I see many times where a teacher goes from 40K-50K in salary to over 60K in 6 or 7 years. While this may be the exception to the rule it does happen. Do I think teachers are paid too much . . . That depends on the situation but I do think many teachers try to play the sympathy card and say I only make $XX per year but will never agree that when you convert that to an annual salary it is alot more than most people make in a year. As for unions and summer vacation I am sure there are as many opinions as there are teachers. I think we do need to come together as a country and fix our education system and move forward. I will continue to follow your blog and hopefully we can chat again.

        On a side note the reason I think many districts have difficulty with money is that they cannot pass levies. The reason for this (at least locally) is the older community. Many seniors say “I will not pay more for something I cannot use.” They forget that great education helps everyone in the community. Maybe that could be your next subject.

      • singingpigs says:

        I like you! You’re very well-organized and coherent! I agree with much of what you say – the levies certainly, and the number of opinions on education and best practices within it. I don’t generally take contrary opinions as attacks. I enjoy a good discussion and think that in the end many folks with “contrary” opinions are after the same goal if we can all simply find the common ground for discussion. Thanks for following – I do hope you’re not disappointed. I tackle issues I see in education, but in my own (sometimes obnoxiously) irreverent way. The blog has a definite voice and tone that I’m fairly true in this venue. That’s its “schtick,” I suppose, but in the real world, I’m a passionate and (I hope) well informed educator. Would love to continue conversations with you. And would love to check out your blog, but it showed as unavailable last time I checked. (?) Best!

  7. Sue says:

    newetl2010 , can you please link me to the job description where I can get a 10k raise in my second year? My current job, with an MA paid 33k pre-taxes my first year with no promise that I’d be invited back the next year. I’m very blessed to have a job, yes, and will never argue that my days aren’t exciting, but I’m going to throw in that having approx. 30 hormonal teens in a room, while trying to convey information that they need to *remember* come standardized test in five months (after we’ve let them lose their minds over the summer) should probably garner hazard pay.

  8. Sasha says:

    My teachers are not at all like this!!!! Well actually one might be so I could use it a little!!!

  9. Susan says:

    Actually.. nothing changes.

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