Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Top 10 Teacher Pet Peeves

I have spent an incredibly minuscule amount of time as a teacher and yet I can already make a list of some of things that most teachers find incredibly annoying. My list may be different than some of my colleagues. If you teach, leave a comment and let me know what I should add. 

1. "Are we doing anything today?"

This question is probably my absolute biggest pet peeve. First of all, this is school; OF COURSE you are doing something in class today. Why in the world would you ever come in with the assumption that you will walk into my classroom, sit at your desk, and just sit there? There has literally never been a day where you have come into my room and done absolutely nothing. Never. Whether you like it or not, when you walk into this building every morning your purpose is to learn. I will be the first to admit that sometimes learning in my classroom looks a lot like some loud obnoxious thing other than learning, but never has it looked like sitting and doing nothing. No matter what your plans are after high school, learning is important. Learn everything you can while you can. Soak in every bit of knowledge you are given because there are so many people in the world who do not have the privileges that you do! Don't ask me if we are doing anything today because the answer will never, ever, ever ,ever, EVER be "no." 

2. "What are we doing today?"

I realize that this question is very similar to the previous pet peeve question. However, the reason for why this is a pet peeve of mine is very different. First of all, I have a bellringer and objectives written on my board every day. If you want to know what we're doing, read the board. If you read the board and are still not sure about what we will be doing in class today, I promise I will let you know. All at once. A single time. With everyone listening. It's just so much easier that way. Why would I answer a question 25-30 times when I can answer it one time and produce the same result? I'm glad that you are super excited about whatever you'll be learning in my class today, but be patient for just a few moments and I promise I will tell you everything you need to know.

3. Door Vultures

Door vultures is a term I use for students who all crowd up at the door 30 seconds before the bell rings. If my students are hovering around the door after they've put all their things away, I have a tendency to make them wait after the bell rings until every single person is in his or her seat before they are allowed to leave. Usually there isn't enough time at the end of class for them to be door vultures, but on those occasions where my lesson didn't go as long in one class as it did another, or when I've misjudged the time, or the bell seems to be running slower than usual (I swear that happens sometimes), it really is frustrating to have 30 teenagers crowding the small doorway. It's even worse if they open the door and decide they'll get a 3 inch head start by putting their foot in the hallway. It would be one thing if I believed they were genuinely excited to race to their next class, but sadly that's never the case. It's like they have a bet with each other on who can scrape the most hang-out time in the hallway before they barely make it to their next class. 

4. "Is there anything I can do to raise my grade?"

This doesn't happen to me very often because our school doesn't allow extra credit, per se. However, I can't tell you how many times a student will come to me asking how they can bump their grade up to passing when they have zeros all over the place for work that they never turned in. My first response is always, "you should probably look into the assignments you're missing and start by doing those." I won't give full credit, but if you want to have a higher grade, the first place to start is by turning in everything on time and completed. Even if you are confused about an assignment and don't fully understand it, you can ask for help and you can get something done. There are not many valid excuses for simply not turning in any work, and there is nothing more frustrating to a teacher than when a student wants a grade bump when they haven't made any effort of their own. 

5. Lack of complete sentences


This pet peeve may be more specific to me because I am an English teacher. A lot of my assignments involve answering questions about things we've read, or even giving opinions about literature. It's an English class. We read, we write, we analyze, we think, we learn. Since part of my class involves learning how to use proper spelling, grammar, punctuation, and all that that entails, my students are expected to always use complete sentences on all assignments. I even take it one step further and add directions to every assignment with "please answer in complete sentences" in bold font. Yet there are always a handful of papers turned in with answers like "to save the city from the sphinx," or "because he was afraid," or even just one-word answers. This is an English class. You are learning to read and appreciate literature and you are learning to write. Writing involves complete sentences and proper grammar. I hope you don't try to communicate to your boss one day using incomplete sentences or short, one-word answers. You are learning to communicate intelligently. Don't force yourself to appear uneducated and ignorant because you don't feel like putting forth the effort to throw down a few extra words and a period. 

6. Repeating myself

This pet peeve is very similar to #2. I do my best to make sure I have everyone's attention before I start giving instructions. The reason I do this is because I really hate repeating myself. It's a personal issue. I realize that sometimes it is necessary and that there are very valid excuses for missing instructions the first time they are given. However, if you are sitting in my classroom and appear to be listening to me when I tell you what to do and how to do it, I expect that you are in fact, actually listening. I apologize if that is a crazy expectation. If my instructions are unclear that's one thing, but if you were just out in la-la land or texting or playing a game on your Chromebook and ask me what to do after I've literally just told everyone what to do, chances are I'm not going to tell you again. You will have to hope that one of your classmates is kind enough to help you out, or you will have to figure it out on your own. Listening is a very important life skill. Your boss is not going to repeat instructions, regardless of the text you got, the daydream you're having, or the fly that is buzzing around in such a fascinating way that you couldn't possibly pay attention to the person talking to you. Honestly, your boss may not even care if you understand the instructions. It is doubtful you will get repeat instructions in the real world, so go ahead and start practicing that listening skill now. Have enough respect for your teachers to listen when they talk to you. Regardless of how you feel about what they are saying, they have worked hard to help you understand a concept that they feel is important for you to understand. Show them the courtesy they deserve by taking 2 minutes to pay attention to their instructions. It isn't going to hurt you; in fact, it will only help you. Your teachers care about you as a person whether you realize it or not. The least you can do is respect them enough to care about what they say in class.

7. Standardized Testing

Most teachers will agree that one of the most frustrating aspects of a career in education is standardized testing. It may be a necessary evil (debatable), but it is such a time sucker that it makes our lives miserable from start to finish. I've lost almost 10 class days worth of instruction time due to standardized testing. 5 of those days have been in the last 3 months and there is more to come. Between the Biology EOC, the ELA and Geometry PARCC exams, MAP testing, and AP testing there are students out of class for testing purposes almost every other day during the last quarter of the school year. I realize that standardized tests are the simplest way to determine if students are performing to the level that we want and expect them to perform; however, simplest doesn't always equal best. Some students have bad test anxiety and their test performance never matches their actual understanding of the content. Some students could tell you the answer to every question in Spanish, but can't read enough English to figure out what the test is asking. We are put on the chopping block by parents and administrators for not differentiating our instruction and our assignments to fit the needs of each individual student, and then when shove them in a room and force them to sit still and quietly for hours while they all take the same test. Consistency is a beautiful thing, but it needs to be practiced. 
I know there isn't a perfect solution to this problem. There has to be a way to determine how much students have learned in their classes; I get that. I just wish there was a better way to accomplish this without taking away so much instruction time, because isn't that the point of school to begin with?

8. Everyone thinks they can do your job.

I'm sure there are plenty of professions out there that suffer from this same problem (politicians, anyone?); the problem of everyone else out there assuming they can do your job better than you can, regardless of the experience they have. There seems to be an assumption among most people that if you have been a student, have kids who are students, or know someone who is a student or a teacher then you could easily teach. I have worked hard to be where I am. I've had to pass tests and take classes and give up lots of Saturdays so that I could get my teaching license. And I'm constantly learning how to be a better teacher. 
I am not perfect. I'm far from the best teacher on the planet and I have so many areas in which I need to grow, but I am qualified. I know what I'm doing. If you are a parent, administrator, board member, or concerned citizen who believes that I am not doing my job well, remember that I am a person just like you are. I've been trained to do my job just like you have. You can give me criticism and make suggestions as long as you keep in mind that I would not assume that I was an expert in your field and I hope you will give me the same courtesy. I read one blog that mentioned this and the blogger said it better than I could,"There are few things teachers hate more than the assumption, stated or implied, that parents know everything there is to know about teaching since they've been students themselves. I've flown in a lot of airplanes over the course of my life, but that doesn't make me qualified to be a pilot!" (memberhub blog).

9. "Oh but you get summers off!" or "Yes, but you don't have to work all year."

I get it. Working is hard. It's hard for everyone. Each career is different and everyone has rough days. But it really irks my taters (excuse the southern expression, sometimes my Mississippi comes out) when people don't take my job seriously because I get summers "off." Yes, there is no class from June until mid-August. I can go on vacation in July and not use up any paid vacation days; which is nice because I only get 3 during the school year. My vacation this year will be a trip to visit my father-in-law and his wife. I'll fit it in between the week I'm helping write curriculum for a new project and technology based school in our district and the week long professional development I'm taking on teaching AP classes. Don't worry, I'll be in the classroom 2 to 3 weeks before school actually starts as well, because the one week the district requires us to be there is spent in meetings; lots and lots of meetings. If I want to get my classroom set up, that has to happen before the week before school starts. This isn't counting the meetings I have to attend in order to determine when we will have homecoming (which is a much more complicated discussion than you would think). 
Contrary to popular belief teaching is not an 8 AM to 3 PM job. There is a common misconception that my job is easy and cushy because I get off before 5 every day and I don't have to work over the summer. That's simply not true. I'm at school at least an hour early every day, because otherwise I would be here until 6 or later every night. I sponsor Student Council, so that means chaperoning homecoming dances, attending sporting events, spending Saturday mornings or Thursday nights (sometimes until midnight) setting up for dances and assemblies, and a lot of before and after school meetings. There are summer professional development courses and curriculum writing days. Not to mention the fact that I put my heart and soul into these kids, so not only is my job physically tiring and mentally taxing, it is also emotionally draining. Sometimes I come home and my heart is so full it could burst. Other times I come home wanting to cry because my heart is broken for one of my students.
My job is hard, but my job is fulfilling. When teachers are treated as if they don't have "real jobs" then the satisfaction and fulfillment we get out of what we do is cheapened. It's not about needing recognition or a pat on the back. It's about respect. 

10. Administrators and Superiors who don't trust their teachers

I would like to begin this point by stating that the principals in my building are all absolutely amazing people. All four of them are encouraging, helpful, and involved. I have never felt like I wasn't valued or trusted. If I am struggling in a certain area, they will give me the tools I need to be successful. Sometimes, one of them will pop into my room just to tell me I'm appreciated. And I'm not special, they do this for all of the teachers here. There is definitely such a thing as a bad teacher, and I understand that sometimes principals/administrators have to do something about a bad teacher. But before completing write-ups and disciplinary action, my principals make the effort to find out why that teacher may be struggling and they do everything they can to help that person. Usually, it's just a problem of not understanding or not utilizing the tools at their disposal. Truly bad teachers are just adults with an attitude problem who don't care about their students, who don't know what else they can do to make money, and who do the minimum amount of work so they can get June - August off. (I realize this semi-contradicts my previous pet peeve, but I am not one of these teachers; therefore, I actually do quite a bit of work over the summer). Truly bad teachers don't care about the support they are given to improve their teaching skills. It may take awhile, but eventually these problems can be rooted out. But a good principal will back up his or her teachers. Good principals listen to what their teachers have to say and value their opinions. Good principals get complaints from parents and speak to the teacher before they make accusations. Good principals hire people they trust who are qualified for the job. I've heard of, and had some minor experience with, principals and administrators who seem like they are looking and waiting for their teachers to screw up. I believe these are principals who have been out of the classroom too long, and are under too much pressure from district administration and board members who also have been out of the classroom too long. We need these administrative positions. I can't fully express what an amazing difference it makes when you have administration that supports you as a teacher. I feel like I am so much better at my job because of my principals and their continued support. 

I love my job. I wouldn't do it if I didn't love it. For every pet peeve I have, there are 10 things about teaching that I couldn't live without. That being said, if you have a teacher in your life you care about, give them a hug today. Sometimes they need it, even if they don't show it. 

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