12 Common Teacherese Expressions (and Their Translations)

Have you ever been in a conversation with another teacher and thought to yourself, I wonder why he asked that?[…]Continue Reading

Have you ever been in a conversation with another teacher and thought to yourself, I wonder why he asked that? Or had a sneaking suspicion that there were ulterior motives to the remark your coworker made in passing?

There are many reasons why teachers don’t always say exactly what they mean to other teachers. Unlike the corporate world, where biting off the heads of others is fairly acceptable (at least it is on Mad Men), in most schools kindness and sharing is expected and competitiveness is discouraged. Kum-ba-ya and all that. Sometimes new teachers in particular are afraid to say what they are thinking for fear of rocking the boat or overstepping those with perceived “seniority.”

Other times, teachers are just plain passive-aggressive.

Whatever the reason teachers aren’t saying exactly what they mean, here is an abridged Teacherese-English dictionary with some expressions I’ve heard from teachers (and some I’m guilty of using myself) along with the English translations for what they are really trying to communicate.


English Translation

Did you get my email?

I am waiting for you to respond to my email.

Are you tired/sick/OK?

I have noticed that you are cranky.

What are you guys doing today? It must be something really fun. I could hear it from my room!


Hey, have you seen my miniature dry-erase boards?

I know perfectly well that you borrowed my miniature dry-erase boards three weeks ago and haven’t returned them, and I would like them back NOW.

Oh, the student who is notorious for being a troublemaker misbehaves in your class? That’s funny; he behaves perfectly for me. I wonder what the difference is.

You need help with classroom management, but I don’t want to be the one to tell you.

Do you have a lot of copies to make?

I can clearly see your three reams of paper waiting by the copier and am hoping you’ll let me go ahead of you so I can make my set of 15 one-page copies.

How does Ty behave in your class?

Ty behaves like a child-tornado in my class, and I’m hoping that I’m not the only one who has no idea how to handle him.

How many grades have you entered?

I am asking around until I find someone more behind than I am.

Do you know what Frank said today during class? He said your class was so boring! Don’t worry. I defended you.

I want you to know that students think your class is boring and that they like my class enough to tell me that, but I also want you to like me.

Just a reminder about the meeting this morning!

I am sending this so that you can’t use “I forgot” as an excuse.

I love your outfit! I wish I could pull that off.

I would never, ever wear that.

Oh, you’re giving a multiple choice test for the final? You’re so smart; that’ll be so easy to grade. I’m giving an essay test. I just think it’s the only way I can truly assess their learning.

I just wanted to let you know in a nice way that my way is better than your way.


Now that you know what your coworkers are really saying, you can find some passive-aggressive ways to get back at them, like cracking a raw egg in his/her mail slot just before an extended school break.

Kidding. We all probably have said something similar to one of the statements listed above. But consider some of the following ways that you can say exactly what’s on your mind without having to disguise it or being scarily confrontational:

Hey, you borrowed my dry-erase boards a while ago. Could I please have them back? They get homesick easily.”

I’m sorry to hear that. Would you like me to share some strategies that have worked for me with Ty?”

Listen, don’t spread this information around, but I’ll give you two Starbursts if you let me go ahead of you in line! I’ve only got a few copies to make.”

See? Those aren’t so bad. We’re teachers, after all. Nothing should scare us.

Not even other teachers.

Love, Teach teaches English at a Title I middle school and writes about it at loveteachblog.com. In addition to teaching, she enjoys the outer edges of Pop Tarts, reading about the life and times of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and dropping her socks in the toilet post-workout after mistaking it for her laundry hamper.