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Wounding Words From Teachers

Dan Brown, a Washington-based teacher who contributes to our Teaching Ahead virtual roundtable at times, has a compelling discussion going on on his Teacher Leaders Network blog about the "5 Worst Things a Teacher Can Say to Students." According to Brown, the No. 1 "absolute worst and most frequently remembered wounding" statement a teacher can make is: "I get paid whether you [fill in the blank] or not."

The ranking of that phrase rang true for me. In visiting an alternative school for an upcoming story about project-based learning, a 17-year-old student who had just transferred there from a traditional school told me he liked his new school better because "they find teachers that just aren't in it for the money." He explained: "At a different school, the counselor there told me to come to school three days a week so they [i.e., the teachers/school] could get their money." Those words, potentially spoken in passing and by a well-meaning but frustrated counselor, had signaled to the seemingly hard-shelled student that he'd been given up on.

On his list of phrases teachers should avoid, Brown also includes "I don't know what I'm doing." "Kids will remember that you're the teacher who said that, and it will haunt you," he writes. But several of his commenters challenged this inclusion, saying teachers should be transparent and admit their fallibility.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with Dan's assessment? What phrases would you have included in your own list?

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