This article was written by Adam Hatch - UC Berkeley graduate, son of a teacher, brother of a teacher, and a teacher himself. Adam started a unique English school in Taipei, Taiwan, where kids learn to research and write articles in English. The articles are published on the first ever English newspaper written by kids in Taiwan, called the Taipei Teen Tribune.
DO YOU WANT TO WRITE FOR BORED TEACHERS? SEND YOUR SUBMISSION TO: BLOG@BOREDTEACHERS.COM!
As a teacher, you have the unique opportunity of influencing young minds and interacting with them on a deep and personal level, almost daily for an entire year. In the course of this time, you’re bound to learn a tremendous amount about them, and you’re sure to share a thing or two about yourself with your class. However, there are a few things you should never, ever tell them - if you do, things will never be the same.
1. Your greatest fear
I am deeply and irrationally afraid of large spiders. When I see one I freeze up and my hands get clammy. As a new teacher, I made the catastrophic mistake of telling a class of 6th graders about this. In my defense, it wasn’t my fault - there just so happened to be a large spider that wandered into the class one day, and everyone learned that I am a chicken.
So guess what happened after that? Fake spiders on my desk, weekly. Constant threats of bringing spiders to class. Sure, it was funny and cute, but I found myself jumping up all the time as students tricked me with toys and phone apps. Parents wanted to talk about it in PTMs. And even after that class went on to junior high, my next group already knew how to get under my skin. In short, keep what you’re scared of a secret under lock and key.
2. Relationship status
Never tell your class your current relationship status unless you are happily married and have been for some time. You see, students - and their parents - are insatiable gossips, and your romantic life, or lack thereof, will be cause for unbridled speculation.
If you are single, you open yourself up to waves of unwanted matchmakers or suggestions about what other teachers you should date. If you are in a relationship, your students will want to know with who, for how long, and all the details they can get. And if you happen to split? Forget about it. Mentioning your relationship status with students is a surefire way of inviting entirely too many people into your personal life.
3. How to find you on social media
I have no idea how teachers are okay with “friending” students on social media. This opens up a window from your professional world into your personal life, and everyone is a spectator. And you have less control over your social media than you think.
What if your crazy cousin posts some politically incorrect stuff and tags you, and you don’t notice for a few days? What if a friend from college puts up some pictures you’d rather leave in the dustbin of history? Even if you have just one student-friend or follower, the whole school is going to know within a day or two. Best to keep your social media away from your teaching.
Telling students about your religion or beliefs is so risky. Families have so many preconceived notions and stereotypes about people of other faiths, and that can be very hard to navigate. We’d like to think that in America in 2017 anyone can openly state their faith and all would be tolerated, but we’re teachers - we know that simply isn’t always the case.
If you tell your students you are Catholic, what are the Southern Baptist families going to think? If you are Evangelical, your atheist students might take your admission of faith as proselytizing. And if you’re Muslim or an Atheist - just watch out. Best to leave your religious beliefs - or lack of them - out of your classroom.
5. “I am so hungover”
Admit it, there have been days when your “illness” has been self-inflicted. Especially if you’ve purchased one of Bored Teachers wine glasses. It is, however, probably not a good idea to tell your class about your previous evening’s festivities - you might be seen as “one of those kind” of teachers, and we can’t have that can we?
6. Pet peeves
Just like what your fears are, if you tell students what bothers you, they are going to make a point to test your limits. Nothing gets students more social “cred” than by making their classmates laugh, and nothing is funnier than laughs at the teacher’s expense.
So, if there happens to be a new pop song that students just won’t quit singing or playing, brush it off. Jokes or memes that drive you up the wall need to run their course. And minor, daily annoyances like kids who sniffle every five seconds but neglect to just get up and get a tissue and blow their nose - well, learn to live with it. Calling out your pet peeves only gives your class ammunition to throw you off your game.
7. Homework is dumb
Students often don’t realize that you hate homework much, much more than they can even imagine. First of all, you have to grade all of it, and then are responsible for tracking it and getting students to actually do it. And a lot of the time, you might not think the assignments are particularly useful - it might just be part of the curriculum, or a reading assignment from a book that isn’t great.
Still, never, ever give students even the slightest inkling that you dislike homework too. If you do, just watch the quality of work drop like a roller coaster. Fewer students will turn their work in. The work will be rushed, poorly done, or just plain wrong. You need to make sure students respect all assignments, and even if you generally think homework is dumb (it is), or that an assignment isn’t your favorite, they should never know.
You may be tempted to share these things with your class from time to time. “They’re a great group” you might tell yourself. “They are mature and will be able to handle it and move on” you may say. Don’t fall for it. If you do, you risk changing the class dynamic and sitting down to find plastic spiders mixed in with your pens, and then you jump up and scream and your whole class laughs at you and then it takes 10 minutes to calm everyone down and you still have four hours until lunch. So, if you do share any of this, do so at your own risk. You’ve been warned.