Get An A+: Learn About These Teacher Pet Peeves

What bugs you the most? Anything just really get under your skin? I know it’s not supposed to be said, but let’s face it, teachers are only human, and yes, they share many common pet peeves!

Teacher pet peeves are a real thing! It’s not uncommon for these pet peeves to pile up and even the most highly-trained teacher can reach their limit. For a successful school year for all, it’s worth it to be aware of, and avoid when possible, these teacher pet peeves.

As a former teacher with over 20 years experience, I can admit teacher pet peeves can get to the best of us. Despite efforts to follow Elsa’s advice and let it go, teachers often fail to keep their pet peeves from affecting them, or the classroom. For all our sake, it’s time to put these pet peeves to rest!

Teacher Pet Peeves About Students

Most teachers really care about their students. Teachers work diligently to prepare lessons that engage (i.e. aren’t boring) and interest their students.

They spend their own money to provide supplies for students who don’t have them, and often teachers spend time outside of the classroom and instruction, investing in their students in other ways, such as eating lunch with them, tutoring before and after school, and just chatting with them to build relationships with their students.

So, it’s very annoying when students do things that disrespect teachers, or disregard their teachers’ efforts. These pet peeves about students are evidence of that.

Not Having Supplies

The number one teacher pet peeve about students is that they don’t have the right school supplies, either by purchasing things NOT asked for or needed,or by misusing, misplacing, or disrespecting the correct supplies they started with! This isn’t about those students who can’t afford or unintentionally lost or misplaced school supplies. No, this is the other I’m talking about!

At the beginning of every school year, teachers provide a list of necessary supplies. Teachers aren’t putting ‘wish list’ luxury items on the supply list, either. No, this is the bare bones, what students MUST HAVE items in order to perform the lesson activities.

But before school even starts, teachers do what they can to help students. Teachers buy supplies with their own money; we all do it!

Even the most frugally-minded teacher is tempted by those Target and Walmart back to school sales and just go ahead and buy class sets of everything! For back-ups and replacements; for those who don’t have them, and those who used to, but don’t anymore!

Teachers buy stacks of 10 cent composition books and packs upon packs of index cards at a quarter each because they know students need them for lessons, many students won’t have them, and the supplies will be three times as much a month after school starts!

Thus, you will see hoards of teachers filling up their carts during these weeks-before-school sales, not for their own kids, but for their school kids!

Teachers will make sure to have the correct supplies for those students, whether in first grade or tenth grade. Come August, they’ll discreetly provide the supplies to students in order to make sure everyone has what they need to get started without any stigma attached.

So it’s understandable that teachers have a pet peeve about students who misuse or disrespect school supplies. This issue is near and dear to the teacher’s heart, and wallet!

The list includes students who…

  • break pencils like it’s a game
  • wad loose-leaf notebook paper into desks
  • flip pencil caps across the room
  • rip folders haphazardly
  • leave library books outside at recess or in other classrooms (books are often found by school custodians in restrooms, yuck!)
  • draw on tables
  • don’t put lids back on markers
  • don’t put game pieces back into the box
  • pull or write on bulletin boards
  • cover up spills on rugs
  • kick pencils across the floor rather pick them up
  • and then of course, need replacements every other day because of their careless actions!

And then there are those who HAVE supplies, but didn’t read the list, or chose to ignore it. Instead of getting what they’re asked to, they’ll get things that are problematic but flashy, and not needed for their learning. And more times than not, these supplies are much more expensive that what was on the list!

Unless specifically listed on the school supply list, students should NEVER bring…

  • glitter pens or markers
  • large bottles of glue or paste
  • folders with unicorns, sports stars, or other unnecessary distractions that make the color-coding system impossible (most teachers color-code folders to make it easier for organization)
  • toys pretending to be school supplies (Don’t be fooled; if it spins, twirls, glows, or makes noise of any kind, it is a toy and should not be brought to school)
  • large notebooks/binders that won’t fit into desks
  • paints (paint should NEVER be brought to school unless specifically asked by the Art teacher)
  • Supplies that only the teacher should have (stapler, electric pencil sharpener, SHARPIES, tape, tape dispenser, 3 hole punch, laser pointer, etc…).

Every afternoon after students left the classroom, I’d take a look around and sigh. Whether I was teaching my third graders or ninth graders, the room looked similar…unfortunately!

Pencils, both broken or not, would be rolled under desks. Barely used paper, sometimes with one pencil mark, would be wadded up along the floor as if it had just missed the trash can/basketball goal target!

Folders would be scattered across desks, along with books from either the school or classroom library bins. Students didn’t care if the items were purchased with their parents’ hard-earned money, or their teacher’s. They don’t play favorites with their equally negligent behavior!

Sharpie pen marks glared across the tops of desks and counters; glue and paint covered the insides. Staples clung to the tops of chairs while tacks and push pin cousins precariously perched on the seats, awaiting the next kid/victim who sat there!

It is disheartening, to say the least, to your child’s teacher, and reminders or reprimands fall on deaf ears each and every day. The only saving grace I found when I was teaching is that there were always four or five random students who’d enjoy staying late to help clean!

If no other pet peeve were corrected but this one, it would be worth it to all teachers across the globe!

Repeating Everything

The second most annoying teacher pet peeve about students is that teachers must repeat literally every utterance at least twice, but generally it’s more than that! This should not be blamed on the age of the student either, because I think the best listeners are kindergartners.

Then, it goes downhill from there. Year after year, students’ listening skills decrease while teachers find themselves repeating every word, more and more times.

Whether it’s an announcement for a field trip, bus number changes, or directions for a homework assignment, teachers know going in that they will repeat every line two if not three times. Beyond that, a teacher may draw the line.

Of course, when that happens the teacher can expect a few parent emails later that afternoon saying their child didn’t know ‘blah blah blah’ and could you, please (if you’re lucky!), explain again.

This is in spite of the fact that you’ve already written the information on the board and probably provided a flyer too! But we already know that the flyer is lying on the floor beside the trash can or decorating the inside of the desk of the student!

Excuses, Excuses

If students learn one thing at school early on, it’s how to create excuses. This rounds out the top three of teacher pet peeves about students. Teachers hate it when students don’t take responsibility for their actions and instead blame anyone and everyone else!

Why don’t you have a pencil (folder, paper, highlighter…)? Despite the fact that the teacher gave them one yesterday, and probably the day before, there persists students who don’t have supplies upon entering the classroom. Most of the time, I stopped asking why, and instead instructed the student to look on the floor for the missing material!

Why didn’t you do your homework? I have heard so many Oscar-winning stories as to why the student didn’t have his or her homework. Dad was in a car wreck and the police took him away! But alas, when I called home to express my concern and see if there’s anything the school can do to help, Dad picked up the phone and was perfectly fine!

For me, most of the excuses surrounded not having time because they had to do too many errands or play with their baby sibling. I could empathize if it were remotely true, but I always provided just barely enough homework to cover an episode of SpongeBob, so not enough time was rarely a valid excuse!

I could easily fill a book with teacher pet peeves about students, but these top three are the most prevalent and actually detrimental to student learning. It’s not that your child’s teacher is just grouchy or a curmudgeon; it’s that these pet peeves take up so much of the day, it is hard to keep smiling (though most teachers do anyway!).

Teacher Pet Peeves About Parents

Get any group of teachers together and you will hear some common parent complaints. There will be quite the list, no doubt! But three particular ones rise to the top and these are easy for parents to correct, if they are willing to try.

  • The Impromptu Conference
  • Undermining the Teacher
  • Lack of Communication

The Impromptu Conference

Don’t misunderstand! Teachers love, even crave your attention. Effective teachers know that students do best when parents are involved in their child’s education, as research shows per this article from the Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement.

I feel so strongly about this that I wrote an article myself dedicated to the Parent Teacher Communication folder, so I encourage you to meet with your child’s teacher for conferences regularly and consistently. Usually schools organize two conferences per year, but it is not unreasonable to schedule a conference as often as every other month if you wish.

Most all teachers wholeheartedly welcome parent requests for conferences or other sort of parent-teacher meeting.

But trying to turn a morning drop off or afternoon pick up into a conference is not the way to a teacher’s good graces! Nor is it appropriate to try to corner your child’s teacher on Back to School Night, PTA night, or any other school function that’s not a conference night for a quick progress report on little Billy.

It’s not appropriate; there isn’t time for it; and I promise you, your child’s teacher is BUSY even if you think, or she looks, otherwise.

Undermining the Teacher

The second most commonly given teacher pet peeve about parents is parents undermining teachers’ efforts. When did this become acceptable?

At some point in the last 25 years or so, tides changed course and no longer were the words of teachers ‘gospel.’ Now this is understandable on some level; teachers aren’t perfect and many have begun using the profession for causes other than education. This is not what I’m talking about.

Instead, I’m talking about instances when students misbehave or don’t do their work and teachers, as they should, inform parents of the problem. This has become a dreaded teacher task, not because it takes up extra time to do so (which it does) but because most teachers have to spend the entire conversation proving the issue with a mountain of evidence or convincing the parent that the issue is a problem in the first place.

Rather than accept the information and agree with the teacher that there is a problem, then support the teacher by taking it up with their child, parents undermine the teacher’s authority and credibility. They blame the teacher for not motivating their child or blame other students for distracting their child.

Another instance of undermining the teacher is found out when students say ” my mom/dad said…” This implies the teacher lacks intelligence to make appropriate classroom decisions. Instead of telling their child to take personal responsibility of their behavior, they show the child it’s better to blame it on others and that the teacher needs help figuring out the ‘real’ problem.

On several instances I’ve been told by 7 or 8 year olds, “I don’t have to” or “my mom/dad said I can’t sit next to/play with…because he gets me in trouble.”

One time I had a student tell me if they didn’t show improvement from their pre-test to the post, then “my mom said it’s your fault for not teaching me.” Of course, the parent disregarded all lack of effort on the child’s part to pay attention, complete assignments, and do practice homework.

It may be hard for you to believe, but some parents undermine the teacher by talking negatively about the teacher. When parents do this, it shows the student that the teacher doesn’t deserve respect; it teaches the student that he or she doesn’t need to respect what the teacher says or does.

Lack of Communication

Lack of communication finishes off our three top teacher pet peeves about parents. It wasn’t as common place 20 or 30 years ago for parents and teachers to work closely together. But with the advancements of technology, it has become easier and more typical for parents and teachers to communicate on a regular basis.

As a former public school teacher for many years, I always started the school year off with an in depth syllabus detailing methods of communication such as email, school phone, conference sheet, weekly folders, class newsletters and even free messenging apps I used. Most teachers do something like this.

A handful of parents would be receptive and adhere to the established guidelines, looking for the regular information I provided, and following up with questions or information of their own that they felt I needed to know in order to support their child.

Yet, there were always an equally-sized, if not larger, group of parents who acted like they never received the information in the first place, or heard about the communication methods though they attended Back to School Night and/or signed the receipt of syllabus slip!

Teachers only hear from parents like this when the parents want to complain. Or a week before (or after) report cards are given! Sometimes teachers don’t hear from them at all; instead they hear from the school principal saying the parent contacted them for a conference with the teacher to discuss x, y, and z!

Teacher Pet Peeves About the Community

This leaves us teacher pet peeves about the community at large. In some cultures, and in the United States of past, the teaching profession has been highly regarded and well-respected. This isn’t quite the case in the U.S. today, and as a result, there are some common misconceptions, resulting in teacher pet peeves about the community.

Common Community Misconceptions About Teachers are:

  • Teachers have the summers off.
  • Teaching is easy and teachers aren’t that smart; otherwise, teachers would do something else.
  • Teachers can’t be fired.

Summers Off Pet Peeve

Probably the misconception I have heard the most, that also annoys teachers the most, is that teachers have the summers off. Let me clearly state, teachers do not have the summers off!

If your district has a summer break (this is not always the case because more and more schools have changed from traditional calendars to a year-round school schedule), that doesn’t necessarily mean your child’s teacher does.

Often teachers sign up for teaching summer school classes or tutoring; others take post-graduate courses to further their own degree or to maintain an active license. Many ‘work’ in their classrooms prepping for the next school year, at no additional earnings!

As well, it should be known that teachers get paid for their contractual days of work. This means teachers aren’t really getting paid for any time ‘off’; so if there is a summer break, teachers aren’t paid for that. This is to the chagrin of many teachers who then, work a separate job to make up the lack of pay and make ends meet.

Let me say it again, teachers do not have summers ‘off’; they are essentially unpaid during this time.

Those Who Can, Do; Those Who Can’t, Teach

Irish author, George Bernard Shaw, is credited with the quote, “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” in his 1903 work, “Man and Superman”. It has been an irritation to teachers everywhere sense!

This infamous and hard-to-forget quote implies if a teacher was really good at something (such as writing), he or she would become a published author. If a teacher was really good at science, he or she would be an accomplished scientist, not spend their days teaching high school biology!

It is quite annoying to teachers when parents think the teacher isn’t accomplished or just plays with kids all day. As a teacher, I was (am) certified to teach in three states; have three degrees from accredited universities; and have more professional on-the-job training and experience in my job as a teacher than most others in fields outside of education.

Hopefully, most people, when they really think about it, will recognize that teachers are probably some of the most accomplished people they’ll ever encounter. Most teachers today have higher degrees than their students’ parents, and certainly more than the average person did in 1903!

Teacher Job Security Misconception

The general population is under the impression that teachers can’t be fired. This is definitely high on the teacher pet peeve about the community list.

Yes, teachers can be fired. There are many ways teachers can lose their job. Most assuredly, if a teacher is proven to do something dangerous or that affects student safety, he or she will be fired. The key word, however, is proven.

Like with most jobs, proof is necessary to let someone go. True, there exist some careers considered ‘at will’ employment, which means you could be let go (fired) for any reason. But to be practical, and diminish the likelihood of a lawsuit, even those jobs provide a reason to their employees for letting them go most of the time.

Teachers can be fired if they don’t have an active license.

Even if you are employed throughout your licensing period, most states require teachers to do additional steps (e.g. courses, fees, paper work…) to renew their license. If a teacher fails to do this despite successful employment, he or she will be fired.

If a teacher works without a contract, he or she can be fired at will. If a teacher works during the first 3-5 years depending on the state where he or she is employed, they can be fired any time, without warning. Most of the time, the principal or HR representative will let the teacher know, but of course, this still means the teacher can be/is fired.

Even if a teacher has ‘tenure’, meaning a continuing contract, he or she can be fired for several reasons, all listed in his or her employment handbook; insubordination (a somewhat subjective term) is one reason, for example.

Thus, there are many reasons, some more valid than others, that a teacher can be fired, so it should make sense as to why this misconception is high on teachers pet peeve list!

Pet Peeves Wrap Up…

Teaching is a highly stressful, all encompassing career, but also quite rewarding to most who do it. Yet, it isn’t without its faults. One of those results in a list of common teacher pet peeves. Let’s recap…

  • Teachers Pet Peeves can be divided into those about students, parents, and the community.
  • Pet Peeves about students focus on disrespect of supplies, students not listening to teachers, and students making excuses instead of taking personal responsibility.
  • Pet Peeves about parents center on impromptu conferences, undermining teacher’s authority, and lack of communication.
  • The top teacher pet peeves about the community concentrates on misconceptions such as teachers have summers off, can’t do anything else, and can’t be fired.

Teachers spend so much time working in vain because of these pet peeves. In fact, the best Teacher Appreciation Gift parents (and students) can give teachers is to put these pet peeves to rest, and give their teachers a much-needed respite! I promise you it sure beats another coffee mug or Starbucks gift card!

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