If Teachers Had a Nickel for Every Time They Said One of These Things …

We’d all be millionaires.

"I'm rooting for you" of Patrick from Spongebob.

Chances are you have repeated these phrases more times than you can count (or would like to remember). While we can’t give you a nickel for every time you have to say them, know that you aren’t alone in trying to solve the greatest teacher mystery of all: why can’t the kids just read the directions? Read on for more things teachers say way too often.

“Did you read the directions?”

Gif of Will Ferrell saying "what did you say?" -- things teachers say

We have tried every hack, tip, and trick, yet every class we find ourselves asking this question again and again.

“Your pencil is sharp enough.”

Gif of a woman swimming in pencils.

I wonder what the record is for the number of times a student sharpened a pencil during class. Five? Twenty? Even if I let my kids sharpen their pencils at the beginning of class, there are endless requests to visit the pencil sharpener. Am I missing something?


“Class isn’t over yet!”

Gif of a man saying "oh no you didn't!" -- things teachers say

Five minutes before the end of class, every head turns to look at the clock. It’s like the wave at a sports stadium. One student starts to gather papers, books, and supplies. Then, another. Then, another. No matter that you are giving directions and explaining the homework. Yup (see number #1).

“Do you want to teach this class?”


Gif of a classroom of kids throwing things at each other.

This one is the worst. One of those shake your head, “I can’t believe I said that out loud” moments.  It happens when your kids are super chatty and you can’t get a word in, let alone any instruction. Been there, done that. Not your finest moment, but better luck next time.

“Show your work.”

Oh math teachers, I am thinking of you. You are trying to teach your kids how to think and strategize. How many times has one of your kids said, “but I got the right answer, so why does it matter?” Sigh. Keep fighting the good fight.

“No, you’re not done yet.”

Gif of a basketball player waving his finger and saying "not yet."

Oh my. This one. You finished your lesson. The kids are working. One kid finishes within the first five minutes. You ask to see the work only to discover that finished means half-way there.

“Can you say more about that?”

Gif of a man rolling his eyes.

We know that building on students’ thinking is a best practice, and that’s why we ask this question all day long. If only we got a response instead of an eye roll or the deer-in-the-headlights stare.

“A sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a period.”

Gif of Bart Simpson running out of school once the bell rings-- things teachers say

This one is especially close to my heart. I taught English, and I considered tattooing this on my forehead … or at least printing it on a tee-shirt that I never take off.

“Save it for after class.”

Gif of Justin Bieber slowly smiling. -- things teachers say

If you teach middle school, you know what I am talking about. It turns out that nothing we teach is going to be as interesting as Justin Beiber, a group text, or weekend plans.

“I can’t give you credit if your name is missing.”

If you have a good strategy for this one, please let me know. Nothing is more frustrating than grading a giant stack of papers with missing names.

“You’ve got this!”

Gif of a woman giving someone a positive affirmation.

This one is worth repeating. Nothing is more important than showing our kids that we care.

Plus, the most surprising things teachers say.

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If Teachers Had a Nickel for Every Time They Said One of These Things ...