What HS Teachers will never tell their students

By Robert Nagle on 1/11/2019

Ok, I won’t make a habit of doing these kinds of posts, but here are the best answers from a reddit question of teachers.

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One day you’re going to come across people who are not being paid to tolerate you, and all of a sudden life is going to become considerably more difficult. ***

I actually teach middle school rather than high school, but I’ll play:I love them a whole bunch (I do actually tell them this, that’s not the thing) but goddamn every single middle schooler is an asshole. Like, even the best ones. They’re all assholes. You can’t help it at that age. Part of the process of being a good middle school teacher is accepting the assholishness and figuring out ways to work with it. Don’t worry, guys, your peers (and you) will stop being assholes soon. Most of you, anyway. ***

That we have much better hearing than you assume. We just choose our battles as it pertains to inappropriate comments. And sometimes I pretend not to see that thing you did just because I too found it humorous, and speaking to you about it would only result in me cracking up. ***

Your parents are literally the worst part of my job. ***

We work incredibly long hours for very little pay-last night I was making posters/anchor charts until midnight just because I was “in the zone”. We really appreciate letters, cards, gifts and thank you’s. Please be polite. You know how good it feels when we make you feel significant, teachers are the same. If you make us feel significant you make it all worth while. It’s heartbreaking when you disrespect us. ***

Learn how to play the game. You just have to give teachers/administration/parents what they want to see, then you can move on. If you hate math, then do the work and study so that you can pass the class and never have to deal with it again. If you hate the principal, then speak to them politely and respectfully so that they leave you alone and you fall off their radar. You don’t have to mean it, you don’t have to love it, but playing the game a little will help you get to wherever you want to be. ***

I’m sorry that your parents are not educated enough to know that education is your best chance out of poverty.***

Also, all the things you think your parents and teachers don’t know about? We do. We’ve done it all. We just would prefer not to think about you doing it because you’re much too young. ***

Failing is not the end of the world. I teach at a private school, and I have had so many students in the last week alone come in on the verge of tears because they’re so worried about exams. Like, absolutely try your best and prepare for the exam, but most of us have NO idea what we got on our high school midterms. I’m a teacher and I have no idea. If you don’t get the grade you want, it’s not the end of the world. Failure builds character. Heck, I’ve failed more than most, and I’m still here! ***

Oh, and do you think you hate exams, tests and homework? Your mild dislike of the work is a mere candle flame compared to the hatred that burns like a million suns, that I feel when I have to fucking mark it.
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That we get just as stressed out as they do about workload and deadlines.
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That we take no satisfaction in giving failing grades, and in many cases, it can make us sick with stress when a kid doesn’t get acceptable grades (especially when you can tell that they try). ***

That we appear happy and engaged (most days) but we are walking a tight rope of decision making: “What part of my work can I put off tonight so that I can spend a few minutes/an hour with my wife/kids, etc. ***

I don’t want to see you in public either. I’m eternally thankful that my one student had her nose in her phone long enough for me to climb the tree outside the train station and hide from her. ***

One of the most valuable lessons I can teach you is to fake looking busy.

If we’re supposed to be working on an assignment or reading or whatever, and you see me coming your way… At the least have a piece of paper on your desk and a pen in your hand and some shit on your paper, and then I won’t bother you. If you have nothing going on and can’t even be bothered to make it look like you’re trying, I’m heading your way.

This lesson will be invaluable with eventual bosses someday.
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Yes, I do have favorite students. No, I won’t tell you who they are because that would discourage you, but yes they’re probably who you imagine them to be. ***

If you’re nice to me and aren’t disruptive I’ll always work the numbers in your favor when it comes time to post grades. ***

Your small town is ruining you. RUN. ***

I pretend to like you and I pretend to care about your fads and interests but I’ll mostly never going to see you again when you leave. Keeping a healthy detachment at all times is important to maintaining mental health. ***

College-level first-year writing instructor here, but that’s practically still high school.

  • Stop fucking all the friends you made in my class. It’s going to be awkward later.
  • I have to make sure “all sides are heard,” but you’re being racist/sexist/etc.
  • You’re a great student, but you have some very toxic ideas about how the world works. I’m legitimately afraid you’re going to become an evil CEO or kill yourself in the next 30 years.
  • I love your passion to change the world. But you’re probably not going to. Still, I’m going to keep telling you that you can, on the off-chance that you might be the next J.K. Rowling or Barack Obama. And even if you don’t change the world, you can change lives around you, which might be just as important. ***

I don’t care if you get high. Either take some edibles so we don’t smell it, and don’t do it when you’re IN THE ACTUAL BUILDING, and don’t do too much so it’s obvious due to how incompetent you’re acting. I get it, you have anxiety. I wish you had a better coping mechanism instead of weed but I’m glad you’re doing SOMETHING rather than avoiding school, etc. Just please please PLEASE don’t give me a reason to send you to the nurse and/or dean. Learn some practical skills. We all have to at some point. ***

If you are stupid enough to have filmed yourself doing something that can get you in trouble, especially legal trouble, for the love of God don’t post it online. ***

I teach middle school, not high school, but for me, it’s that I know shit sucks at home. I see it every day when you come into my class. I see the tears you’re hiding, the pain behind that class clown smile, the emotional fragility behind your tough-guy persona. I know exactly what it’s like to come from a broken home. I wish I could do something, but until you come to me, all I can do is try and let you know, with a look, a smile, a subtle turn of phrase, that I’m always there for you when you need an ear, or a shoulder. ***

I totally played favourites. Hands down. I was like a mirror reciprocating what you send my way. If you wanted to be a lil bitch, I would not meet you halfway for anything. ***

Show respect, or make me laugh with your wit, or ridiculousness, and I can make adjustments and compromises. ***

Also, cheat and plagiarize away, dumbass. You’ll pass my class because I don’t get paid enough to police your entitled ass, but post-secondary education or the real world will nail you with your ineptitude. Or maybe it won’t and you’ll be lucky. I get paid the same either way, and I’d rather spend my time providing useful feedback. ***

When it’s surprise movie day instead of lecture and actual class time – I’m likely hungover or just having a fuck it kind of day. They aren’t gifts to you. They are gifts to me. Or i faffed off and had no lesson plan, shh.***

Some classes got pizza parties/ potlucks/ departures from the norm way more often than others. I lied when I said each class got about the same amount.
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Just because I like you as a person doesn’t mean that I won’t fail you. Being smart isn’t a justification for being lazy and I can’t pass someone that never hands in work. .***

I moved you away from your friends because they were taking you down with them. You have a real future in sports but you need to pass my class to play them. Your friends were making you fail and, if you don’t get to play volleyball, I don’t know what kind of future you have in front of you. .***

I wish that the positivity that you get in my class could follow you home. I’ve met your parents and they are a nightmare. I do my best to encourage you here but I know that, some days, that just might not be enough. .***

I have never and will never find a student intimidating. That’s why I laughed at you when you asked me if I “knew who your father was”. Yeah, he’s the manager of a car dealership; that means nothing to nobody. I had a kid throw a desk at me and, while it scared me in the moment, it didn’t make me fear him. One day, you will meet someone who has real power and I just wish that I could be there to see it. ***

The odds of you using any specific piece of knowledge you learn in high school is slim. The odds of you using some piece of knowledge from high school is near absolute and you have no idea what it’s going to be or when it will happen, so you may as well try at all of it. The biggest thing you’re going to learn is how to learn.
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I’d let you get away with so much more if you were actually a decent person who treated others with kindness and respect. Assholes rarely get the benefit of doubt or indifference.
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I’m sorry but I probably don’t know your full name, and the year after you leave my class, I won’t remember you. The students whose names I remember were either the awesome students, or the dickheads who I hoped would amount to nothing.
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I’m really sorry. Your parents put you in this elite private school because they think they can protect you from all the evils of the outside world… including responsibility. You aren’t getting any of the skills you will need to function as an adult. I’m doing the best I can but my hands are tied by the school.
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I’d tell the girls “Stop dating that guy. You’re intelligent, ambitious, and talented. He’s a dead-eyed sociopath who got kicked off the football team for drunk driving. You could easily run a Fortune 500 company, but if you marry this guy you’ll be living in a trailer park taking care of this soggy unappreciative jackass for the rest of your life.”
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I can see who you have a crush on in the classroom.
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If your parents email a teacher and argue with them, the whole staff knows. (At least at my school) ***

“If you end up having a boring, mediocre, miserable, pathetic, unfulfilling life because a teacher, or pastor, or parent, or anyone else told you how to live your life, THEN YOU DESERVE IT. -Frank Zappa”
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I know when you are using your phone dipshit no one looks down at their crotch and just smiles.
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When you think you are being genius by getting me to talk about random things at the beginning of class instead of “teaching”, I’m really allowing it to happen b/c I don’t have enough planned to cover a full class.
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There are two things that make me happy:

  1. You doing what I ask you to (I will admit to this)
  2. You refusing to do what I ask you to in a polite, respectful, and meaningful way (I will not admit to this).

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I don’t always agree with what I’m told to tell you the rules are. I don’t always have a personal stake in their enforcement. I just want to not get in trouble for not enforcing them. If it’s important enough, and students are polite and respectful about declining something, and do what they can to keep class moving smoothly while not doing whatever it is, that doesn’t bother me. It’s a frustration I’m happy to deal with in exchange for the idea that I had a small part in teaching kids how to adult, which is not on state standards.
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Sadly, students often think the best way to achieve this is “argue with teacher until teacher relents,” when relenting is not an option we’re often afforded, and it’s not an adaptive option for adulthood necessarily. I often tell kids who have complaints to take it up with admins or put it in writing, and they don’t often listen. I understand why they don’t, as I was worn down at their age too, but still.
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I believe the arbitrary and, let’s be honest, sometimes unnecessary rules of high school are a preparation for a real world that is often cruel, arbitrary, and uncaring. Escalating to higher authorities, explaining clearly and calmly one’s grievances, and not taking out frustrations about a rule on the person enforcing it are life skills.

And yes, sometimes it’s my rules the kids don’t like. And that’s ok too. Go over my head with you like, respect it as a boundary of my personal classroom if you like, just be nice to me about it. I’m generally only annoyed rather than offended if you sneak and do what I asked you not to behind my back too, unless you’re rude about it. I wouldn’t come into your room and do some of the things you do in mine, but if I did I would be contrite about it.

TLDR: I’m not offended when you disobey rules I don’t like as long as you’re nice to me about it and understand when I can’t or won’t change something. Bonus points for trying to change rules I don’t like in a constructive, adult way. It’s all about respect.