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15 Things Only Teachers Would Understand

15 Things Only Teachers Would Understand

Summer has arrived, and for many this means just one thing: school is out! This also means that, at least theoretically, teachers can enjoy some much-deserved r and r, theoretically being the operative word here. For all of us who live the academic life and sometimes feel like no one really gets it, here are fifteen things only teachers can truly understand.

1. We appreciate what it feels like to work around the clock

Teaching isn’t a job. It’s a calling. While we live in a world in which technology has increasingly blurred the boundaries between the personal and the professional, educators have always lived like this. I say this both as the child of teachers and a teacher myself.

We spend hours a day in the classroom, but when the bell rings, the work doesn’t end. We have papers to grade, lessons to plan, conference calls to make, and, if you teach college, constant emails to answer. I’ve made a habit of establishing a cutoff policy and expressly tell my students that I don’t typically reply to emails after a certain hour. It’s never stopped me doing so anyway though, because I’d much rather a student contact me with a question than complete the assignment incorrectly. I know. I’m a pedagogical paragon of virtue. You can just canonize me now. Thanks.

2. We tend to boss people around

Some of us are just naturally bossy and have probably entered the teaching profession in part because the classroom provides a useful outlet for that. Others develop this skill over time. You can’t deliver instructions to an entire class of screaming hellions or organize 25 munchkins into a straight line without a commanding authority. We might like to draw up schedules for road trips or tell everyone what time to be at dinner, but admit it. Nobody would ever accomplish anything without someone else giving them marching orders.

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3. We have a compulsive need to take control

Since we spend so much time at the front of a room commanding attention (or, you know, pretending our students are listening to us), we have a really hard time stepping back and letting someone else take the reins, because everyone else, no matter how hard they try, is just too incompetent. Need someone to organize a church fundraiser? Get a teacher to assign everyone a job. Looking for someone to plan a friend’s surprise party? Get the teacher in the group to do it. If I’m being honest, we hate this, but if we don’t do it, no one else will, and we’ll always assign everyone something to do and make sure that they do it, or else.

4. We like to discipline other people’s children

You can take a teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of a teacher. In addition to imparting wisdom, we get paid to baby-sit other people’s brats. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen kids running around the mall like hoodlums or cutting people in line at a theme park and thought: no control. Since we’ve developed a reflexive habit of repeating phrases like “no running” or “sit down, please,” we have to bite our tongues in public. Not my kid, not my problem. Moving on.

5. We constantly “shush” people

In any social or public situation that requires people to focus their attention on something or someone, count on a teacher to shut everyone up. Movie theaters, churches, public speaking events, you name it. Nothing drives me up a tree more than people talking when someone else has something important to say, particularly when they have safety information to communicate. Flight attendants don’t review safety instructions on an aircraft because they like to hear themselves talk. Just because you’re a jet-setter that doesn’t mean the person sitting next to you is. If you’ve heard it all before, please sit down, buckle your seatbelt, look out the window and daydream about what in-flight cocktail you’re going to order. Thank you.

6. We can reflexively slip into “lecture mode”

Lecture mode refers to the spontaneous mini-lectures we launch into whenever someone asks us a simple question. A friend recently called me while writing a personal statement for a grad school application to ask me about the correct use of a semicolon. Fifteen minutes later, she decided to set the draft aside and pour herself a scotch. I’m still sorry about that.

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As teachers, we’ve grown accustom to giving people detailed, sometimes lengthy, occasionally boring answers to questions. My parents have taken to pausing the TV whenever they watch BBC drama with me because when they have a question about anything pertaining to the period, they’re going to miss half the movie if they don’t pause it. I try. I really do, but I’m nothing if not enthusiastic about disseminating knowledge.

7. We don’t party on school nights

Sometimes we don’t even party on Friday nights. You will occasionally find me in my pajamas on a Friday night with a bottle of wine, my dog, and the TV remote. When we have to be up at 4 or 5:00AM and spend most of our day talking at people, quiet is more often than not the order of the evening. As one article comically points out, “we’re usually in bed by 8:00PM, so Netflix and Chipotle are a better bet than anything that requires pants.”

8. We drink too much coffee

Coffee is our life blood. If anyone ever invents a caffeine injection, teachers will make it an instant hit. Since our work follows us home, coffee is the only thing that stands between us and the fog that obscures our brains as a result of late nights and early mornings. (Well, there’s also wine, but we’re not talking about that here). We have coffee in the morning, coffee during planning hour, and probably a coffee mug on the desk that’s ostensibly for holding pencils but is really there in case we need an extra cup.

9. We are masters over our bladders

This skill is something of a teacher superpower. Finding the time to take a bathroom break can be challenging with a room full of minors that can’t be left unsupervised. This is essentially why teachers will look at you funny if you’re a doctor and you tell a teacher to “drink more water”. You try it when you’re lucky to squeeze in time for a bathroom break.

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10. We appreciate the value of comedy

I’ll never forget something a professor of mine once said in the first upper-division literature course I ever took in college—the thing that made me certain I wanted to go into teaching: “Teaching is a performing art.” He was right. Keeping your students engaged is all about the delivery, and as teachers we can appreciate the value of a good joke, or even a bad one. If our students are laughing at us instead of with us, at least they’re paying attention in some form.

Humor also works as a convenient memory trick or motivator. I’ve been known to tell my students that for every day a paper is late, I capture and hold a bunny rabbit hostage. I like to believe this works, though maybe the humor here has nothing to do with the joke and everything to do with my delusions about student responsibility.

11. We have an obsession with inspirational quotations

Like comedy, inspirational quotations are tiny morsels of easy-to-remember wisdom. We’ve all probably heard some form of the Napoleon Hill quotation, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” As teachers, we know that the key to success is the difference between potential and kinetic energy. A student can be the sharpest proverbial pencil in the box and get the lowest marks in the class if he doesn’t feel motivated, so we like to use bulletin boards and posters plastered with these reminders in quote form so that students can glance up at the walls as they work and reflect on how important it is to dedicate themselves to their work if they want to see tangible results.

12. We love “teacher movies”

At least, we love the one’s that get it right. “Mr. Holland’s Opus” is my personal favorite because it depicts, with moving authenticity, what it means to dedicate your life to sharing your passion with others and showing them how knowledge can enrich their minds and their lives. Speaking as someone who works in the Humanities, any form of storytelling that emphasizes the importance of art, literature, and music in the classroom gets two thumbs up from me. Sometimes teaching is a thankless job, and we appreciate it whenever anyone wants to tell our stories in a memorable and relatable way that champions the work we do.

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13. We’ve forgotten how to sleep in

Our bodies are always on school time, and there’s absolutely no point trying to reset them. I’ve reached a point in my life at which I feel like a sloth if I sleep past 7:30 on a Saturday. The payoff, of course, is that theoretically we get more accomplished, and considering that weekends will usually consist of grading papers between binges of Downton Abbey, getting an early start on Saturday is probably wise.

14. We love to ask people what they did on their summer vacations

Partially because it’s a convenient first-day-of-school icebreaker and partially because teaching is the only profession in which you go off the grid for two months and don’t see most of your colleagues, this is our go-to conversation starter. Summer might fly by while you’re having fun, but a lot can happen in two months, and sharing stories about our fun in the sun helps us to reconnect with one another on common ground.

15. We really hate hearing “Your job is awesome. You get summers off.”

I’d almost rather hear “the dog ate my homework.” The problem with this misconception is that not only do we make up for it during the weekends and late nights we spend grading papers, prepping lessons, and attending after-hours school functions, we also continue to work during the summer. There are course textbooks to order and sort through, curriculum standards to update, student schedules and seating charts to draw up, and, if you teach at the university level, your own research and writing to do. Quite a lot of us love the teaching profession, but it requires far more dedication than many people fully appreciate. If we were paid by the hour, no school would ever be able to afford us.

Featured photo credit: School Children via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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