Saturday, December 4, 2010


There are sayings that are instinctual with teachers. They are the ones that emerge from some unknown place in my gut that heard it long ago. Sometimes they roll off my tongue so quickly, I surprise myself…and hate myself simultaneously. I’m sure that these phrases are as flat and empty to them as they are to me.

1. “Please be respectful.”

I’ve been using the word “respect” like I’m Aretha Franklin lately. I toss it out there anytime I can’t think of anything else to say. Talking when another student’s talking? “Please be respectful and listen when __________ is talking.” Touching another student’s stuff? “Please be respectful and keep your hands to yourself.” Leaving notebook entrails on the ground? “Please be respectful and throw your garbage away.”
RESPECT: The most useless term tossed out at the fastest rate.

2. “Use your time wisely.”

How does an 8th grade student use his/her time wisely? By actually doing the assignment given. It’s so simple, yet such a complex task.

This is such a teacher term. In what other industry do you say “use your time wisely”? In what other industry do you even ask someone to “be wise” about anything? None. And why are we asking 13 year old kids to “be wise” anyway? They are THIRTEEN. Wisdom is not a trait of someone who wears silly bandz, giggles when they hear the word “sex” or paints each fingernail a different color of the rainbow.

3. “Do your best.”

This phrase is vital and necessary for me. It is my best cop-out to any situation. For example, when students are testing, they often ask for help clarifying a question on the exam. If, by my help, I might potentially give them the answer, I stop myself by saying “Use your best judgment" or "do your best." Then they swiftly turn back to their seats to finish their test, still clueless about the question being asked. I say this constantly. It curbs confusion that I can’t clarify and complaining that I can’t resolve.

It’s funny to stop and think about these teacher-isms. These are phrases that aren’t really heard anywhere but in the classroom, yet are repeated so often they are said to dead ears.

Anyway, in other news, Holidays are here. I’m lucky to be teaching in a school that hasn’t outright banned anything and everything celebratory (i.e. kids were able to dress up in costumes to school on Halloween, an unheard-of, gasp-worthy idea for any public school these days). So this fact really makes Christmastime fun. I am teaching The Christmas Carol to my 7th grade and the kids are really getting into it. It’s these simple joys that make me really appreciate my job.

And, in the end, I don’t mind that I’m in the only industry that constantly repeats “use your time wisely” because, let’s be honest, especially as adults, we all need the reminder to use our time wisely.