13 Things to NEVER Say to a Teacher

Okay friends, I have been pushed over the edge with questions about teaching. Every year when summer hits the same ones come up, and every year I bite my tongue. I just have to get it out. I know these questions are asked of all of us, and I would love to hear your witty responses or mundane questions in the comments. Here are my "favorites."

1. It must be nice to have such a long summer break!

Really? Do people still not understand that we work over the summer. A teacher is really never off. If we aren't at an inservice, then we are home brainstorming ways to do things better, scouring Pinterest for new ideas, and cutting out lamination. So yes, summer is a great, but it isn't what you seem to think it is.  

2. 7-3 are great hours for a workday.

Wow, they sure would be, but unfortunately that is a student's work day, not a teacher's. I, like most other teachers, arrive before my students, and stay long after they leave. Even those of us who have been teaching for a few years still have our late nights at school. If you want to challenge this, drive by any school in the evenings long past three and count the cars in the parking lot. 

3. What do you do all day?

I sit on a carpet and eat cupcakes of course! What do you think I do? I teach! I read with my students, we have small group, I guide them through social skills that are still developing, and so many more things that I can't even list. Please don't ask me what I do all day, because my answer will be exceedingly sarcastic, and I really can't be held accountable for that. 

4. I could never be a teacher.

That's why you leave it to those of us who love it. I know you've heard it before, but teaching is way more than a career, it is a calling. Please don't tell me that you could never do it, I already know. 

5. You know what they say, "Those who can't do, teach."

Seriously? I don't even have a response for this one. I did see a bumper sticker though one time that said, "Those who can't teach legislate." I thought that was pretty great. 

6. You only have like, 20 kids right?

Only if two are absent! Our classrooms are fuller than ever these days, and there is no end in sight for this one. In Texas 4th grade and below we have a cap of 22, but there are waivers for that too. I have been fortunate enough to have 22 or less students every year but one in which I had 25. Let me tell you, just because their bodies are small doesn't mean they need any less room, and their personalities are still larger than life. Managing the education, behavior, and social skills of 20, much less 25 or more, students is a full time job. 

7. But you get all those days off during the year too!

You're right, and we spend them with our families that are sorely neglected for a lot of the school year. Really, my life is teaching, and my home life takes the hit when things at work get tense. The other way I spend a day off is sleeping. 

8. I almost became a teacher.

Did you? I don't know if people say this to try to make a connection, but I don't start conversations with police officers and lawyers by saying that I almost did their job. If you are trying to make a genuine connection with me let's talk about hobbies, a book you've been reading, or a television show. Teachers are humans too, and don't need to be treated like social pariahs.  

9. I heard the legislature is cutting teacher salaries. You didn't go into teaching for the money anyway, right?

You are absolutely right. I went into teaching eyes wide open as to how much I would be making, but no one told me that every time there are budget cuts my salary would be the most talked about item in social circles. No one told me either that it would be news, and talked about by my friends and family every time it happens. These are important issues that should be discussed, but not to the point where teachers are seen as money hungry, something as a whole we are clearly not. 
I am not a martyr, so don't make me into one. 

10.  The algorithm was good enough for me. Why do you teach it another way to my kid?

Yes, I only learned the algorithm when I was in school too. Do I want all of my students to be able to use the algorithm successfully? Of course I do! BUT I also want all of my students to be successful, not robots. While some latch onto the algorithm right away, others need another method to help them find their success. Neither is wrong. 

11. Why are you so tired?

Because teaching can suck the life out of you, that's why. I get up early and stay up late. My immune system is compromised due to the fact that I work in a human petri dish, and I am just exhausted. So when I turn you down for meeting for a 9pm movie on a Friday night, please don't let that hurt your feelings, because I will probably be in bed, or asleep on the couch, several hours before that. 

12. You talk about your students as if they are your own kids.

Absolutely, they are mine, and if your child was in my class wouldn't you want me to feel responsible for them in that way as well? 

13. What do you do when you take a personal day off?

Short answer, it's personal, just like it sounds. Long answer is that I take a personal day as a last ditch effort to uphold my ability to teach. It is far harder to be out of the classroom than to be there sick, but there are a few things that necessitate taking a day off. It is really hard to make an appointment whether it be for the dentist, the doctor, or the accountant outside of the school day which means sometimes we have to miss school. I once took one day and managed to make it to four separate appointments, I call that efficiency. Of course I am human, and I get sick. Most of the time I will continue to go to work sick, but that just makes it worse. Sometimes I have to stay home as to not infect the entire school population. 


  1. Well said! So true! I get so annoyed when I hear those questions!


  2. It's so true! I'm a teacher in France and we have to face the same stupid questions...

  3. I especially like your last one. I took one day off to get to several doctor appointments. I taught all the rest of the days this year.
    Artistry of Education

  4. Spot on ... except in CA we are capped at 33 in upper, 27 in primary - and that was just lowered by one this spring ... Enjoy your summer - we ALL need it!

    1. In my district the "cap" for 4th and above is 38!

    2. In my district the "cap" for 4th and above is 38!

  5. And then there's the question from students and parents: Did we do anything important yesterday?

  6. Well said. I recently got the, "Teaching is pretty much babysitting, right?" Oh you wouldn't believe how hard it was to bit my tongue on that one. Thank you for sharing!


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