“Teachers Are Always Like That.”

This past week I was lucky enough to accompany my ten year old daughter Claire on a field trip to our waste management plant in Rapid City.

exploding can

We were having a picnic at a park and I was visiting with her and her group of friends.

Claire had decided upon an experimental drink for the day, a carbonated water beverage without any kind of sweetener. She had brought a packet of Splenda to try to doctor it at lunchtime.  I was visiting with the group of giggling girls, my daughter added her Splenda, and “KABOOM!” Her drink exploded in epic proportion, the likes of a science experiment.

We were outside, and so no one’s lunch was ruined and no one was even sticky.  This is when it occurred to me that her thirteen year old brother who was at school, had packed the same thing.

“Oh no!” I said to Claire. “What about your brother?!  I hope they don’t think he did it on purpose and he doesn’t get in trouble.”

One of Claire’s friends looked at me and said, “Teachers are always like that.”

Out of the mouths of babes.

I have frequently heard teachers using language that demeans, embarrasses, and takes away the human rights of their students.  There can be a lot of barking and bossing them.  This is something that applies to new and experienced teachers.  New teachers do it because they are desperate to control, and experienced teachers do it because “they’ve heard it all before.”

The best thing we can do as educators is investigate.  Jumping to conclusions about a situation can be very detrimental. “Sally took my block away!” a student says. I have overhead teachers say, “but she always causes trouble, I just know she did it.”  If this was the one time the student didn’t, then you are reinforcing that it doesn’t matter if we make the right choice, the world will punish us anyway.

Acknowledge your student’s feelings. It only takes a second.  If a child is hungry or tired or sad, it takes a moment to get down on their level and comfort them with one or two sentences. “I can see that you’re frustrated that we have to go inside.  I wish we could stay out and play too.  Once we do projects and eat lunch, we will come back out.  Will you sing with me about it? Do projects, eat lunch, come back outside!” Different strategies work with different students, but oftentimes all a child is seeking is acknowledgment that their feelings are valid.

Help students label what they are experiencing, but do not tell them how they feel.  There is s difference between saying, “I can see that you’re feeling uncomfortable,” or “It seems like you are feeling sad.” than “You can’t be cold it’s hot in here.” or “You’re not sad, you’re just feeling tired.”  You are not inside of that child’s body, and you do not know exactly what they are feeling.  This is where the investigation comes in to play again.  If it was warm in the room and the child feels cold, maybe they are coming down with something.  Maybe they are like me and their body temperature fluctuates (I learned long ago to dress in layers).

At the YFS Kids Fair in Rapid City this past weekend, our preschool painted approximately 300 little faces.  Many children would approach cautiously.  The moment we said, “Hi, I’m a teacher at a preschool.” the tension would ease out of their bodies, they would smile, and become happily talkative.  The words “I’m a teacher.” instantly imbued us with their trust.  Teachers wield more power with children then we can ever understand, and it is so important that we use it responsibly.

Checking in with my thirteen year old at the end of the day, he traded his drink at lunchtime.  The drink did explode all over the young lady he traded with, but thankfully no one was injured or got in trouble from the teachers.  I do think however, it’s going to  take him giving her a few non-exploding drinks to build up their trust again.

In the comment area please share your feedback!  

Do you remember a time when a teacher made an incorrect assumption about you? How did that make you feel as a child/teen/college student?

What is your experience with being an empathetic, investigative teacher or parent? What are your strategies that might help others?



12 thoughts on ““Teachers Are Always Like That.”

  1. This to me is a very powerful article. All throughout my time in school myself and friends were discriminated against by teachers simply because of what we wore. The particular fashion that I and my friends had gave teachers the impression that we “didn’t apply ourselves”. After being told things like that over and over you can start to believe it yourself. It is so important to give everyone an equal opportunity and not just start writing children off as “oh, they’re always naughty”. Every day is a new day and a new opportunity to help a child learn something, not just shut them down because of a preconceived idea you have.


    • Totally under stand about teachers not thinking we don’t apply our self. Went through kind of the same thing in high school and turned out for the better. I know some adults that think that was of me to this day, but I look at it as I do my best raising my kid, and ive held down a good job for 2 years. I think I’m doing pretty good.


    • Morgan thank you for your perspective on this! Unfortunately things like this happen every day in classrooms, from preschool to universities. I particularly appreciate your point that when a person is told something repeatedly about themselves, they can start to believe it. This is as true for children as it is for adults! I am so glad that you are an educator who recognizes the importance of helping students without prejudice.


  2. In high school I had a few months where I was hanging out with the wrong people. I got in to missing class and was on the verge of failing. Once I got my self back on track the teachers of the classes I missed would always make me feel like I was never gonna make it. I pushed my self and at the end of high school proved them wrong by actually graduating in January with the Career Learning center. You cant just assume a child or even another adult is bad or the trouble maker. Everyone has their days and the next day might be better.


    • It’s terrible that your teachers made you feel that way, especially because you were doing what it was going to take to get back on track. I hope that you take pride in what you have been able to accomplish so far, and confidence in your ability to continue to achieve. All any of us can do is keep trying, and as teachers and parents two of the most important things we can teach are perseverance and that everyone makes mistakes.


    • I am glad that you pushed yourself to succeed and be better! Your hard work definitely paid off and no teacher should assume that a student has a lazy behavior. You were always determined and needed the motivation to keep pushing forward.


  3. My son went to school locally, he has a high IQ, SD does not have T.A.G (talented and gifted) program, he would score 100-105% on all tests and quiz, he was good at sports and well liked by his peers. This is were the positive story stops, he found homework and class time boring and redundant. He did not turn in any homework from the middle of his sophomore year on. We battled with teachers and the principle the whole time. His test grades did not drop, he could solve math problems faster than his teachers. My 4.0 son graduated with a 3.4 gpa because of the homework issue. Teachers and the principal labeled him as lazy and no good. He is now 26 and suffers for self esteem issues. As parents we advocated for our son and tried to explain to the school and the school board that if they do not have the program’s needed for advanced students, they can’t demean them for being bored and disconnected on a day to day bases. If he is not missing questions on his test does the homework really matter. Children need to be challenged to learn.
    I have also been an early childhood educator for 25 years and I still have not heard it all and look forward to the next thing I have not heard.
    I suggest listen to what the child has to say, why they feel cold, could have the story that changes your whole day. I was having one of those days (as we like to call them). And a child came up to me on a 75 degree day and said I am freeze to death. I asked why are you so cold and the child said I was really, really hot and pretended I was an ice cube and now I am a freezy Popsicle. Just picturing this in my head made me start laughing. I felt the child then took temperature it was over 101. I could have brushed it off but instead I found out the child was ill and I heard a story that turned my day a round.


  4. Started in high school when I tried to go out for volleyball and didn’t make the team pretty much because I wasn’t a skinny person and I have dealt with this issue most of my life people making fun of me or not wanting to be my friend because of my weight, I had a ex friend tell me. That if I would go have surgery and lose weight she would hang out with me again. She is no longer my friend. I want to so kids that even if your a bigger person you can have friends. And enjoy life but try to eat healthier foods and exercise I try to eat good but I walk after work at least a couple nights a week. . Be active and be true to yourself and LOVE Yourself


  5. I remember a time in high school when I was failing my history class. The only way to make up my grade was to join a pageant that was coordinated by my teacher. She labeled me as lazy and didn’t put effort in my work (the class was really hard). I would come to practice late and leave early (due to car ride issues and she assumed it was because I’m a slacker). Pageant day came and I won all categories from top 10 finalist, most talented, questionare then became crowned the winner! She did not know I have been practicing at home when I leave the rehearsals early! I know I am hard worker but I couldn’t truly shine in her class because history was not my cup of tea. Since that day she has totally change her perception about me.

    My experience with being an investigative teacher is seeing one of my students getting dropped off late. This student is usually upset when his mother leaves but this day he was just really sad. I wanted to assume it was because his mother had left but when I had asked him “why do you seem so sad today” he replied “Because my mom was yelling at my dad yesterday for not coming to see me” (parents are separated). This broke my heart hearing that this child has witnessed a fight and has affected him until the next day. It was an eye opener for me to be more empathetic and to dig deeper in their feelings rather than to just “assume” their daily habits .


    • I have learned a lot from the answers of child and how we should never assume what is wrong. I have also learned if a child repeats what the parent said the issue was almost word for word to wait and ask again later and the real answer is more likely to come out


  6. I think if we take what we have. Learned from the past and use it to change the future! When teaching or dealing with a situation. Think back on how or what happened to us and let’s make a difference or change how we teach them


  7. Pingback: Happy New Year! | Early education plantation

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