10 Statements That Educators use to Kill Learners.

It’s about time we retire these statements, all of which I hear teachers say too often to students:

  • You must not be working hard enough.
    • Is that really the only reason? It sounds instantly interrogatory and condescending, especially if they ARE trying. Maybe they don’t understand things in your teaching style. Maybe they don’t understand at all. Effort isn’t everything. Inquire and find out where the block is, so you can help them move forward.
  • You should do more homework.
    • There is little evidence that time spent on homework time creates success. This statement implies that success is tied to completion. You should find additional methods to help them learn.
  • A “C” is average. Be happy about it!
    • Maybe they want to achieve more than just average. Average isn’t anyone’s goal, it is a place on a continuum. Want to really help them, ask them where they want to go from there.
  • If you don’t care enough about it to turn it in on time, I’m not going to correct it
    • Really? You hold grudges about punctuality? They bothered to do the learning activity, so give them feedback, or you will train them to walk away from the experience if they miss a deadline. If it is that unimportant, it shouldn’t have been assigned in the first place.
  • I don’t have time for this
    • This is dismissive. If you don’t have time for kids, why are you a teacher? Instead, try explaining when you can help them at a later time, or suggest ways they can get help sooner.
  • That’s the way we have always done it here.
    • There is no more toxic a statement. Yes, culture is built on traditions, but they can never be used to justify bad pedagogy. If you catch yourself using this phrase, stop, and instead ask how they would suggest moving forward, and give honest feedback from there.
  • Today we will all be creating this particular thing…
    • Implies compliance and following directions are more important than creativity. Instead, show an example or two and turn them loose. Give prizes for originality, creativity, and vision. They can still show what they know. Rubrics help isolate what is really important and where they have license.
  • This is not a democracy!
    • Ugh. Ok, I get it, you are the boss. However, if you relinquish a bit of control, students will respond better to all inquiries. They have enough bosses in their life. They need a coach and a guide.
  • Let’s just get through this…
    • Learning should be fun, and when not fun, should be engaging, and when it can’t be either of these things, then at least it needs to feel important. This phrase indicates that it is just a hoop to jump through. If that is all it is, change it or it will be a waste of everyone’s time.
  • That’s the real world…
    • Don’t condescend to students with this phrase. Most of the time it is meant to imply that the teacher has supreme knowledge of the universe and the student know bubkes. Respect that school is for children, and they don’t need to fully understand the adult world you live in. Their own experiences in the adult world will likely be very different anyways. For now, they are children, and they need to play, learn, and enjoy being a kid. Stop using the “real world” as a hammer to scare kids or make them feel like they have no chance of success. Besides, they didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. Chances are they have seen their share (probably more) of the real world than you think.

Thanks to several people who helped brainstorm this list via Twitter: @sharejoyinlife@nnelsonbphs@fryed@clmaxa@micwalker@CRHeitz@talouis

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