Saturday, December 15, 2007


Understanding your child's teacher comments: a Guide for the layperson.

We don't call home or write things on report cards that get us pulled into the principal's office.

And YES, we do get pulled into the principal's office. I got pulled in there twice during my 8 years of teaching. Okay, three times.

1. Once, I left my classroom too messy after a class party on 'Pi' day. 'Pi' day for the uninformed, is held on March 14th (3.14, get it?) which also happens to be Einstein's birthday. The rules are: bring food that is round, and we measure the radius before eating it, and then calculate circumference and surface area from that.

2. I once called a parent for a month getting no response. Her son was failing and poorly behaved in my classroom, and likely involved with all the wrong sorts of people.

Finally in desperation, I left a message with her boss, please tell her to call me, and said, "I'm concerned about her son's grade and behavior."
Her response? She called the assistant superintendant, who I believe was a distant cousin of hers, and said that I had 'humiliated' her to her boss (she was a night clerk at a hotel).
I was asked to apologize, and I said bitterly, to my boss, "Can I say, 'I'm so sorry your kid is such a loser?'" Barely hiding a smile, my principal said, "NO."

I'm a good sport, and never one to stand on principal when I can make a problem go away. I apologized, appropriately and in person.

3. I mentioned off-handedly to a bunch of teenagers a You-tube video called, "Shoes" and how the song was stuck in my head. I was asked after that to confine my comments on videos to those with 'educational' content. I agreed that this was best.

So where was I? Oh, yes. Ya know, I could lose my summer priveleges for telling you this, but the truth is that over the years, most teachers learn to be diplomatic. It's hammered into our heads to always stress the positives. The strengths. But unfortunate this doesn't do you, the parent, justice when you really need to hear the hard truths. So I submit to you, the parent, translations and iterations and definitions of commonly-spoken comments from teachers.

So hear goes:

Gets along well with others/A little too social.
really means: I asked if I could use duct tape to get her to shut up, but my principal said No.

Not as motivated as I would like.
really means: I've almost got him trained to show up with a pencil. Next week, I'm hoping to start working on bringing paper or a book.

Much more capable that what his grades show.
really means: He's lazy.

She requires frequent redirection.
really means: I have to remind her constantly to get back to work/sit down/shut up/stop bugging people.

He has a very strong personality/is very independently-minded.
really means: The other kids think he's bossy and he backtalks me in class.

I think she gets too much help from others, and I'm concerned that this interferes with his/her ability to work independently.
really means: She cheats off the smart kids.

I think he tries to hard to please others, often at his expense.
really means: He's the smart kid the other kids cheat off.

(On a math paper) Your work doesn't make sense.
really means: You copied the answer form somewhere, and made up all the work in between.

Quite a sense of humor she has. She keeps the kids in stitches, although I've been trying to temper her sense of humor.
really means: I want to throw things at Miss Entertainment's head. Daily.

On occasion, your daughter/son wear clothes that are inappropriate.
really means: Your child is dressing like a gang member or a gang member's bitch.

I've spoken to your child's other teachers, and...
(Stop! This is ALWAYS BAD NEWS. Teachers usually don't make a point of standing around venting about the "good" kids. They vent about the badly-behaved ones, if for no other reason than to find out if they are ill-behaved in all their classes, and what things each other has tried that works.)

on a brighter note:

I wish I had a whole class full of kids like your kid.
really means: I really wish I had a whole classroom of kids just like your kid.

There. My holiday present to you, the parent.
No need to thank me. I'm here to help.



  1. HA! I know ALL those kids!
    Very enlightening.

    I would hae a hard time apologizing to that lady myself. You are a better woman than I.

  2. Awesome, my wife is a teacher, I feel your pain!

    I hope to see you in the races! Courtesy of Cody you have been tagged. Check out my blog at:

    for instructions, Peace!

  3. When my son was in mid school, I used to get this alot

    "Much more capable that what his grades show."

    and I knew EXACTLY what it meant. Now he's doing MUCH MUCH better (Yay, Band!)

    Luckily, I've always gotten the following for daughter, I just wish she behaved the same with me at home...sigh

    "I wish I had a whole class full of kids like your kid"

  4. What does the comment "Is handy with the gun and knife" mean?

  5. It will be a few years until we get report cards but we're already hearing the politically correct phrases. I wish teachers could tell the truth, don't parents know their kids aren't really perfect? Teachers could be a great resource for addressing problems we can't observe at home. I can only imagine your frustration, thanks for all your hard work, I wish you were going to teach my kids some day.

  6. Most people want to hear the truth, and in a face-to-face conversation, Ill give it. But over email, or the phone, without knowing the parent, I'm cautious. There are, unfortunately, parents who believe the truth should always be told...unless it's about their hita, who can do no wrong. Then I'm just an evil, discouraging teacher who must be reported to the autorities. All of them.

  7. I Love This!!! I want to hang it up on the wall and I am not even a teacher. Although these aren't used yet for my kids , I am keenly aware of their personalities and can see it coming. Great job!!

  8. I LOVE it! So much that I stole it and pasted it onto my blog--sorry. I haven't figured out how to link it--but I did credit you, of course. As a teacher and parent I admit that I have said those things and unfortunately, heard a few of them as well. Peace.


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