Sometimes we say things to colleagues that we shouldn’t. And, I am not talking about cussing people out when they finish the coffee and don’t start a new batch. That kind of thing NEEDS to be called out! I am talking about other, more provocative, words.
Here’s what I mean: I found a teacher discussion post on Reddit.com. It was entitled What Do Other Teachers Say That Bugs the Crap Out of You? At first, I thought this would be a list of overused or incorrectly used words and phrases, like when fellow teachers use literally instead of figuratively, or use the incorrect their, they’re or there in emails.
Instead, I found some pretty thought-provoking stuff – things I truly hate to hear, but things I recall having dished out on many an occasion to colleagues without thinking.
Here are some of the phrases that jumped out to me:
“The students know better than to do that in my room.”
On Reddit, comments are ranked according to the votes they receive. This comment was ranked at the top on the day I read the list. It seemed to strike a chord with many teachers, me included. I have heard this kind of thing many times, especially in my early days in this profession. These words are interpreted along the lines of “The students behave better in my room because I am better than you.” Not a very helpful sentiment for a new teacher to hear. Instead of this, most teachers on the thread indicated that they would have preferred actual advice rather than this kind of gloating. Something like “I found that this strategy works with that group….” or “Have you tried this….?”
“Students understand technology – they are all digital natives.”
This comment seemed a bit counter-intuitive when I first read it. Aren’t students “digital natives”? Aren’t they more comfortable with technology than my generation? This is something I’ve heard at pretty much every technology conference and presentation I’ve attended since Marc Prensky coined the term back in 2001.
Most Reddit contributors, however, saw things a little differently. And, if you give it some thought, I think you may just agree with them. Many of the people who commented on this post argued that yes, our students are very comfortable on certain platforms – especially the social media ones. They can Instagram, Snapchat, and Musical.ly with the best of them. But, digital nativeness does not mean that young people have innate mastery of all things technology related. Many students, Reddit commentators pointed out, are terrible at tasks such as:
- creating/formatting a letter on word processing software,
- searching effectively on Google (“What? There’s more than one page of search results??”),
- typing anything using correct spelling or grammar,
- using a keyboard with both hands efficiently,
- how to insert a table into a document,
- how to share a document on Google Drive,
- or even how to attach a file in an email.
The bottom line with this comment is: don’t make any assumptions when it comes to technology in your classroom. It doesn’t hurt to take some time to review/introduce particular skills.
“Why reinvent the wheel?”
This comment is referring to those members of your staff who resist new ideas or new technology. They dismiss innovation because they have a system and it is currently working fine, thank you very much! But, just because things are going well doesn’t mean they can’t be improved. I find that simply looking at my tools and my program from time to time helps trigger small tweaks and new ideas. Nevertheless, as some Reddit commentators pointed out, sometimes a teacher simply doesn’t have the time to develop and integrate new programs during a busy school year. Sometimes it is necessary to wait until a meaningful break to reflect and explore new ideas. Whether you are offering a suggestion or receiving one, try your best to be kind/understanding in your communication.
“Spelling and grammar don’t matter in my class.”
Have you heard this one? Infuriating. One Redditor sarcastically responded: “Good to know good writing only exists 55 minutes/day for students!” Recently I wrote a post about all teachers being language teachers. Language is the gateway to communication and learning – ALL learning. Just because you are not the official Language Arts person doesn’t mean you get to ignore language in your room. Surely there must be course-specific vocabulary you need to instill in your students? At the very least there must be assessment verbs and/or specialized question formats you need to review? Anything that can come up in your room is a potential learning opportunity. If students get a review on the use of capital letters in your room and only your room, it can only help. Don’t let a good opportunity slip by, assuming you feel it is someone else’s job.
“I’m sure you will understand when you have children of your own.”
Ugh. This is sore point. As one Redditor commented: “Just because I don’t have children of my own does not render me incapable of connecting with my students.” And what about teachers who, for medical reasons, are unable to have children? Wouldn’t those kind of words really sting?!
Another Redditor noted that teachers who are not parents still have an incredible amount of expertise to offer: “Purely based on data points alone, the number of students a teacher experiences in middle school alone means we trump the parents when it comes to understanding the potential causes for a middle school student’s misbehavior.”
We don’t mean any harm by these kinds of words – they are sometimes just lazy phrases we throw out without really thinking. Maybe they are things we’ve heard many times and take for granted; maybe they’re just verbally habitual things to say in certain situations; or maybe we are in a defensive/primitive-brain frame of mind. However these phrases might get formed or escape our lips, they can disrupt effectiveness and cooperation between you and your teammates. And, they can just plain hurt.
This year, think twice before you speak!