Crazy Things People Say To Teachers — And How To Respond

Tired of people assuming your job is easy and your summers are free? You don’t have to take it.

Ah, the holidays. ’Tis the season to gather round the hearth, feast on turkey and pie, and enjoy the company and conversation of loved ones we see but a few times a year. And thank goodness for that! You love them dearly, but it’s exhausting fielding all those annoying questions about the teaching profession from your well-meaning but clueless family.

“Needs and Desires”

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of comebacks to crazy questions, so at this year’s holiday dinner (or any other time your professionalism is called into question: legislators, are you listening?) you can show the whole family why your profession is worthy of their highest respect.

Teachers are just glorified babysitters!

OK, you can pay me what you pay your babysitter. Ten dollars an hour for six hours (even though I actually work 9 or 10 hours a day) is $60 a day, times five days a week (even though I often work weekends) is $300, times 36 weeks a year (even though I’m taking classes and professional development year-round), is $10,800 – but that’s just for one student. Multiply that by 30 students and that’s $324,000. That’s a good start.

All your union cares about is bargaining for higher salaries and more benefits! What about the glorified?

Actually, when state laws allow us to, the National Education Association routinely bargains for student-friendly conditions like class size limits, staff training to improve student learning, collaborative time for sharing effective classroom techniques, school building health and safety, desperately needed classroom materials and equipment, and joint union-management problem-solving on ways to better teach students in low-performing schools. But shouldn’t we also have competitive salaries so we attract the best teachers? Don’t the students deserve that?

Teachers have tenure. You can’t be fired no matter what kind of job you do.

Tenure does not mean a “job for life.” It means there needs to be a just cause to be fired and you have a right to a fair hearing to contest charges. Any tenured teacher can be fired for a legitimate reason, after school administrators prove their case. If I want to thrive in my profession, I need to do a good job.

Ooh! Must be nice to have summers off!

During my first weeks “off” I will be mapping out curriculum for the next year, cleaning and organizing my classroom, and catching up on professional reading and professional development coursework. So what do you say….want to trade places?

You’re way too educated to be teaching young kids. You should be doing something more challenging. Don’t you have an M.A.?

Teaching is a calling, not just a job. Compared to the challenges (and rewards) of the classroom, graduate school was a cakewalk.

It can’t be that hard to control a bunch of kids. Just have clear expectations.

Classroom management is really an art, and it’s not that simple. But if you think you have some special tricks, I’ll bring 30 kids over to your living room tomorrow morning to watch you work your magic.

If my current job doesn’t work out, I could just become a teacher!

If you have the desire and commitment to put 50-plus hours a week toward a large group of extremely diverse learners of varying abilities, please consider it. We always need more passionate teachers.

Is it true that the lunch ladies and custodians and bus drivers are members of NEA? What do they contribute to our kids’ education?

They’re called Education Support Professionals, and yes, they’re union members. They are on the frontlines of our schools every day – driving students to and from school safely, keeping our schools clean and environmentally sound, making sure our kids eat healthy meals, assisting students in the classrooms, and ensuring the front office runs smoothly. And they’re all essential to a well-rounded education for our kids.

You teach kindergarten? How nice to play with paint and glitter all day!

Sure, we finger paint in kindergarten. Not to mention learn the fundamentals of reading, math, and science that set the stage for the next twelve years of learning.

Why do teachers object to merit pay? You should be paid what you’re worth!

The trouble is defining the value of a good teacher by test scores. Unless, of course, you think your SAT score was the ultimate predictor of your worth?


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