School Discipline

10 Things Teachers Do That Drive Students Crazy

We’re in the heart of summer, a time when teachers are knee deep in professional training and contemplating how to improve their practice for a new school year. One piece of homework I’d love to assign is an eminently practical list of tips offered by a teacher writing for the Center for Teaching Quality called  “Five Things Teachers Do That Students Hate.” It’s an older piece, written about three years ago. Still many of her ideas really resonated—I’ve heard my own kids and other students complain about them. It also inspired me to ask some students for a few fresh ideas—what’s missing from this list? So here were the original ideas from Nancy, a Boston teacher:
  1. Taking forever to grade and return work. 'I worked like an animal on that project, and I didn’t get it back for a month.' (My thought on this—this one is huge; students experience this as disrespect, the notion that deadlines only apply to students and not teachers. Make a commitment and stick to it).
  2. No patience with questions. 'I know you’ve probably heard my question before, but it’s new to me. It also might be repetitive, but I swear, I really didn’t understand. Please don’t embarrass me by rolling your eyes or sighing with impatience.'
  3. Testing on material you didn’t teach. 'Nothing is more frustrating than trying to call up knowledge about something you know you’ve never learned.' (I’m not so sure I agree with this one—the idea that students are only spitting out information that’s been drilled into him. As a parent, I’m hoping teacher assessments dig a little deeper and require more synthesis and less memorization).
  4. Punishing the whole class. 'I did my homework. But now because most of the class didn’t do it, we are getting twice as much homework tonight.' (Supposed to inspire collective responsibility, but usually inspires mistrust).
  5. No autonomy in choices. 'Why can’t we get a couple of choices for assignments? Why can’t I research something that I’m interested in? Or pick my own book for literature circles?' (Seems like a no brainer, assuming the student is working off a list of approved assignments, topics and books).
Here are a few extra to add to the top 10 list: 6.   Pretending they know everything, when they don’t? 'When teachers don’t know the answers to questions, but instead of acknowledging they don’t know the answer they pretend they do and tell us to look it up. How are students supposed to feel comfortable developing new skills and risking embarrassment when their teachers won’t do the same?' 7.   When teachers give you a poor grade on a paper, but don’t give you the feedback to explain the grade or help you get better . (This is a probably a time management issue when grading, but just handing out a letter grade with little feedback isn’t helpful). 8.   When teachers act exasperated when you don’t understand things right away.  (This is a wrinkle on #2 above—born of the assumption that when kids struggle, it’s on them, not on your teaching technique). 9.   When teachers go-to discipline is to tell kids to leave class without even trying to talk with the student with the problem. 10.  When teachers play favorites.  (Let’s be real. Most teachers have them; it’s only human. They just can’t behave like they do when they are in class).   That’s the list. So teachers and students and parents, what do you think? What would you add?
An original version of this post appeared on Head in the Sand.
Tracy Dell’Angela
Tracy Dell’Angela is a writer, education nonprofit executive director and a mom passionate about education improvements. Previously, Tracy was Director of Outreach and Communications for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. She came to IES from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, which produces research that ...

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