5 Things Teachers Should Never Say to a Student

According to students, there are some things they NEVER want to hear a teacher say. Read on to find out what!

My students know that I frequently write about issues which affect teachers. I often ask them to tell me what is important to them, as students, so that their voices can be heard. Recently, we had a discussion about the things students really hate to hear from teachers. Listening to my students’ stories and hearing their passion, I knew I had to pass this list on to teachers.

1. “You’re nothing like your sister/brother or you’re exactly like your sister/brother.” My students tell me this is one of the top things they hate to hear from teachers. “Yes, I know it’s probably an easy comparison to make, but I want to be judged for who I am – not who my sibling is,” said Kristen. “My sister was wild in school. I’m nothing like her.” “Sometimes it’s hard to live in the shadow of my brother – he was a straight A student and took eight AP courses,” Jason told me. “I’m lucky if I can take one honors course. I just want to be me.”

2. “Shut up.” “I hate when a teacher tells me to shut up,” said Nick. “I mean, I know we can get on teachers’ nerves. We can be loud. But please, please, please do not tell us to shut up. It’s totally disrespectful, and it can make us angry. Nothing good can come out of telling students to shut up.”

3. “Act your age.” This one had some qualifiers. My students agree that sometimes they do not act their age. “It’s tough being serious all the time, and sometimes we just have to crack up and lighten the mood,” they told me. Hearing “act your age,” they said, depends on the teacher’s tone when delivering the directive. If a teacher says this statement meanly or aggressively, it bothers the students. “If that’s just the way I act, I can’t help it,” Danela said. “I don’t like being told I am immature,” Jordan added. “Especially in high school – that’s the way kids act sometimes. That’s how we learn. It’s aggravating to be called out about it. A teacher is basically telling me how to act when s/he tells me to act my age, and no one, really, should tell me how to act.” But that being said, the students did agree that sometimes they do, indeed, act immature, and a gentle, respectful reminder is perfectly acceptable.

4. “You’re going nowhere in life.” I found it hard to believe that my students actually had teachers say this to them, but they swore that they did. “I feel terrible when a teacher tells me I’m going nowhere,” Nick said. “It makes me feel like I want to give up. I lose my self-esteem, and I start believing it.”

5. “Just do it.” “Sometimes I have questions,” Tahj said. “I’m not being lazy, and I’m not giving up. I really need a teacher’s help, and a teacher isn’t helping me if he or she just looks at me and tells me to ‘Just do it.’ Instead, trust me, and give me a hand, and I promise I’ll do my best.”

The students appreciate the opportunity to have their voices heard. Stay tuned for next time when students let us know: “5 Things Students Love to Hear Teachers Say.”

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  • Ian

    I agree with this

    This substitute said most of these and even some other ones. I wont give their name though. Thanks for trying to spread this around. 🙂