Ten clueless things people say to teachers — and comebacks to throw right back

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People say the craziest things to teachers about their profession. Like what? Like how easy their jobs are, and how anybody can do it.

Here is a list of some of the common idiocies along with some useful comebacks, compiled and written by Cindy Long and originally published in NEA Today, a publication of the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union.


Teachers are just glorified babysitters!

Comeback:  OK, you can pay me what you pay your babysitter. Ten dollars an hour for six hours (even though I actually work 9 or 10 hours a day) is $60 a day, times five days a week (even though I often work weekends) is $300, times 36 weeks a year (even though I’m taking classes and professional development year-round), is $10,800 – but that’s just for one student. Multiply that by 30 students and that’s $324,000. That’s a good start.


All your union cares about is bargaining for higher salaries and more benefits! What about the students?

Comeback:  Actually, when state laws allow us to, the National Education Association routinely bargains for student-friendly conditions like class size limits, staff training to improve student learning, collaborative time for sharing effective classroom techniques, school building health and safety, desperately needed classroom materials and equipment, and joint union-management problem-solving on ways to better teach students in low-performing schools. But shouldn’t we also have competitive salaries so we attract the best teachers? Don’t the students deserve that?


Teachers have tenure. You can’t be fired no matter what kind of job you do.

Comeback:  Tenure does not mean a “job for life.” It means there needs to be a just cause to be fired and you have a right to a fair hearing to contest charges. Any tenured teacher can be fired for a legitimate reason, after school administrators prove their case. If I want to thrive in my profession, I need to do a good job


Ooh! Must be nice to have summers off!

Comeback: During my first weeks “off” I will be mapping out curriculum for the next year, cleaning and organizing my classroom, and catching up on professional reading and professional development coursework. So what do you say….want to trade places?


You’re way too educated to be teaching young kids. You should be doing something more challenging. Don’t you have an M.A.?

Comeback: Teaching is a calling, not just a job. Compared to the challenges (and rewards) of the classroom, graduate school was a cakewalk.


It can’t be that hard to control a bunch of kids. Just have clear expectations.

Comeback: Classroom management is really an art, and it’s not that simple. But if you think you have some special tricks, I’ll bring 30 kids over to your living room tomorrow morning to watch you work your magic.


If my current job doesn’t work out, I could just become a teacher!

Comeback:  f you have the desire and commitment to put 50-plus hours a week toward a large group of extremely diverse learners of varying abilities, please consider it. We always need more passionate teachers.


Is it true that the lunch ladies and custodians and bus drivers are members of NEA? What do they contribute to our kids’ education?

Comeback: They’re called Education Support Professionals, and yes, they’re union members. They are on the frontlines of our schools every day – driving students to and from school safely, keeping our schools clean and environmentally sound, making sure our kids eat healthy meals, assisting students in the classrooms, and ensuring the front office runs smoothly. And they’re all essential to a well-rounded education for our kids.


You teach kindergarten? How nice to play with paint and glitter all day!

Comeback: Sure, we finger paint in kindergarten. Not to mention learn the fundamentals of reading, math, and science that set the stage for the next twelve years of learning.


Why do teachers object to merit pay? You should be paid what you’re worth!

Comeback: The trouble is defining the value of a good teacher by test scores. Unless, of course, you think your SAT score was the ultimate predictor of your worth?


What else?

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.



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Valerie Strauss · March 14, 2014

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