13 Painfully True Things All Teachers Wish They Could Say

I’m a public school teacher in a mid-sized American city, currently teaching 9th grade, but I’ve taught several different age groups. We’re not all the same, but I would say that my experience is pretty average, and I know that teachers all wish we could say certain things (especially to the parents).

1. Not all students are special, and there is no way to say this without sounding terrible. But when parents constantly come to you looking to work miracles with their child, and you have 30 other students in the class, all you want to do is yell “Your kid isn’t that smart!”

2. The students who suffer the most in any given class are the smart ones. We have to teach to the test, and help every student pass the class, so if they are too advanced for the material, they’re just going to be bored and under-challenged for the entire semester.

3. Everyone knows that teachers don’t make a lot, but a lot of people don’t understand that a big part of our money goes to the students. We buy classroom supplies out of pocket, use up gas driving kids around to activities, and even pay for the lunches of kids who don’t have anything to eat. If you knew the number of kids that go to school hungry, whose parents literally don’t care if they have anything to eat, you would be shocked.

4. Yes, we have summer vacations off, but most of us work during that time. And even if we do have the time off, we’re using it to regroup from the rest of the year where we have to get up at 5:30 AM every day (our first classes start at 7:17), and often don’t finish until the last after-school activities end, around 5 PM.

5. Our worst enemy is the parents who don’t care. Even the parents who fight with us tooth and nail over a bad grade that their child earned isn’t the worst. It’s much better to fight with someone who is wrong than be confronted with the parents who simply don’t care if their children succeed or fail. Because if there isn’t any emphasis on hard work in the home, there’s no way they are going to magically start working in school.

6. When something goes wrong, we are to blame. Teachers have the awkward middle ground of not being the parent who get to be there for the child’s achievements, but who gets to be the scapegoat if something doesn’t go right. No matter how much a student refuses to do the work, parents and even administrators will always find a way to blame it on you.

7. Public school bureaucracy is a nightmare. But it’s a system we have to participate in, and if you’re frustrated with not getting anyone in administration to listen to your problems, you can bet that we’re just as frustrated on our end.

8. Even though not all kids are meant for college, we are forced to encourage them to apply. Right now, that’s how the system works, and the colleges are here to make a profit. Even though some students would be better off in a technical school or going straight to work, we have to pretend as though everyone can be on the college track if they just try hard enough.

9. To combat this problem, we’re starting colleges so easy that literally anyone can go to them. We have four-year colleges with full tuitions that will take almost any student, and people go to them, just to say they are going to college. And we can’t say to those students, “Don’t waste your money on this place, it’s a bad investment.

10. Not all teachers are good. Sometimes, there really are terrible teachers, and no one is more frustrated with them than their coworkers. If we see a fellow teacher who has tenure and therefore can’t get fired even though they are objectively terrible educators, all we can think about is how they get paid just as much as we do for doing half the work.

11. When teachers do extra programs, they are doing it because they want to. Sometimes you get paid overtime for hosting an after school club or doing a special program with the students, but a lot of time you don’t — and even when you do, they never count how many hours you actually spend. If you direct a school play for example, you’re guaranteed to be underpaid and to go out of pocket for a lot of the play supplies. But we do it because we actually enjoy helping the kids and doing fun things with them.

12. Bullying isn’t going away. We spend more time in our average school day than you can imagine talking about bullying. We have assemblies, and special class work, and roundtable discussions with students about how to prevent it. But honestly, kids can just be really mean, and there hasn’t been a big decline at my schools in the amount of bullying, even with all of the talk about it. A simple solution would be to invest more in the different activities that students can participate in — games, clubs, sports, class help — so that everyone can find somewhere to excel and be happy. But these things are always the first to be cut (I guess to make room for more bullying awareness talk.)

13. A simple “thank you” goes a long way. Some of the best days of my life have been where I received a little card or small gift from a parent (or even a student) who just wanted to say thank you for the work that my colleagues and I do. It can often feel — between the bureaucracy, the low pay, and the indifferent parents — that our work is totally unappreciated. But if you have a good teacher in your life, taking a moment to appreciate their work can mean the world to them. TC mark

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