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 with five teacher narratives and describes why they’re problematic.
We’ve just included a snippet of the reasoning for each, but for the full commentary, read the original post here.
“It’s such a shame teachers have to buy their own supplies.”
“I’m not buying ‘my’ supplies. I’m buying yours.”
“Students don’t learn from teachers they don’t like.”
“You can’t ‘get’ a kid to like you any more than you can ‘get’ a romantic interest to love you. They have autonomy, their own range of (wildly fluctuating) emotions, and an intensely immature barometer for ‘nice/mean’ or ‘fun/boring’ or ‘good/bad’ or ‘useful/useless.'”
“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.”
“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.”
“Students actually crave discipline/structure”
“We need to provide stability, predictability, and structure. They will not ‘love us for it’—certainly not at the time. They will appreciate, much later, the skills and strategies it helped them uncover. …”
u/nattwunny definitely struck a chord with other Redditors on r/Teachers. Others soon piped in, commending the OP and sharing the narratives they wished would disappear forever.
“A teacher destroyed my desire to learn.”
There are bad apples in the profession, to be sure. But blaming a lifetime’s worth of destroyed potential on a single teacher is a stretch.
“School could have taught me [valuable skill], but instead all they taught me was [info I’d never use].”
“Did they teach you to read? Did they teach you basic arithmetic? Can you make numbers go from one piece of paper onto another piece of paper? Then they taught you how to do your taxes.”
“We’re a family.”
Too many times this is weaponized as “Do unpaid labor, like a family business,” not, “We will support you with whatever you need.”
“Kids don’t get sarcasm.”
Dang. News to me.
“[Student] just doesn’t get along with female teachers.”
Can’t wait to use this same excuse at my next PD session. “Sorry, I can’t learn from people with mustaches. Or pocket squares.”
The “customer service” model of education
Aaaaand cue my blood pressure spike.
What narrative about teaching are you rejecting? Let us know in the comments.
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