13 Toxic Teacher Narratives We Need To Ditch

These are way too common.

Photos of two harmful teacher narratives

Narratives are everywhere in teaching. Some are proverbs circulated by teachers (“Be firm but kind.”). Others are maxims written in holiday cards from parents (“Teaching creates all other professions.”). Some are adages pasted on a PowerPoint slide by administrators at faculty meetings (“The good teacher explains; the great teacher inspires.”).

However, as Reddit user u/nattwunny pointed out in a recent post, not all teacher narratives are worth keeping around. Many of them perpetuate harmful ideas about our unreasonable expectations for teachers.

Some need a language change. Some need context. And some are flat-out rejectable.

u/nattwunny starts the conversation:

1. “It’s such a shame teachers have to buy their own supplies.”

“I’m not. I don’t need 100 pencils and spiral notebooks. I’m not buying ‘my’ supplies. I’m buying yours.” —nattwunny

2. “If you bring something in, it’s your fault if it gets broken.”


“Quit coddling the damned students and discipline them when they destroy something especially something of value to someone else.” —SunkenCityFerryman

3. “Students don’t learn from teachers they don’t like.”

“Students need to learn how to learn from a wide variety of people, not all of whom will conform to their preferences.” —nattwunny

4. That “the difficult child” will get better if they’re loved on extra hard.

“You can’t love a kid out of deep trauma/emotional disturbance/being violent. Take that inspirational-teacher-movie mess outta here and give the kid consequences, not chips.” —MrsMusicLady

5. “Teaching is a service purchased by the parents. Therefore, parents should have a say in what and how teaching is conducted.”

“Surgery is also a service that is purchased … but that doesn’t qualify the patient to declare how it should be done.” —nattwunny

6. “If they’re not paying attention, you’re not engaging them” or “If they’re bored, you’re boring.”

“I can’t compete with entertainment. No matter how much cheese you put on the broccoli, it still won’t beat cheese-with-no-broccoli-in-it.”

“Some things are boring (to us, individually). Some things are boring, period. And yet, very often, we still have to be good at them. That’s not unreasonable. It’s just life. No one leaps out of bed, thrilled to clean their bathroom, do the laundry, and pay their bills on time. But we need to do it, and do it well, and do it without being ‘offered a treat’ or ‘waiting for it to feel fun.'” —nattwunny

7. “Grading and planning can’t be done in the time we have, so we have to do it at home and on weekends.”

“Nope. I won’t. If that means grading less, so be it. If that means my assignments aren’t as amazing as they could be, oh well. I do not get paid enough to work at home, and when I have done it in the past, it made me a burnt-out, crappy teacher.” —justridingbikes099

“Years from now, they will remember how you made them feel, not what you taught them.”

“I am sick of being pounded over the head with that Maya Angelou quote; paraphrasing, ‘they remember how you made them feel, not what you were trying to teach them’; as if she were writing PHD-level educational policy.” —KW_ExpatEgg

8. “Our job is to get them to love [subject].”

“Our job is to get them to understand the value of it beyond surface-level enjoyment.” —nattwunny

9. “Students actually crave discipline/relationship/structure/etc.”

“No the hell they don’t. They crave passive entertainment.”

“Is it easier to teach a student who happens to like you, or your style, or your content? Of course! Can we do things to soften the corners for those on the borderline? Obviously! But it’s also easier to teach kids who understand that learning is what school exists for, so things just go more smoothly if you get on board with doing the job … but no one’s trying to push that on them, strangely.” —nattwunny

10. “School could have taught me [valuable skill], but instead all they taught me was [info I’d never use].”

“I saw a post from a girl that I graduated with on Facebook and she was talking about how she wished school had taught her about drinking, drug use and effects, and mental health and all this other stuff. I replied with, ‘they did. It was part of our REQUIRED health class.’ I was even in the same class as her! Another girl I’m still friends with backed me up. The other girl was too worried about being popular and making out with her bf.” —sparkling467

11. “We’re a family.”

“Toxic positivity to force us to work more and do more. No, we are not family. I’m there to do a job and go home to my actual family.” —Fabulous_Swimming208

12. “[Student] just doesn’t get along with female teachers.”

“Oh. Ok, good luck.” —BillG2330

13. The “customer service” model of education

“It’s the difference between someone sitting a table in a restaurant ordering dinner, and someone who is in a culinary arts program being taught how to make it. They are not having the same experience, nor should they.” —nattwunny

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