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Four Comments Teacher Haters Make (And How to Shut Them Down)

I cannot even count the number of times it happened. I would be at a party or another social situation that involved meeting new people and someone would inevitably ask what I did for a living. When I responded that I was a high school English teacher, it was entirely too common for someone to wince and say, “I hated my English teacher!” Despite any number of comebacks ranging from funny to pointed, I usually decided at that moment that the person I was talking to would not be a pal and turned my attention elsewhere. Generally speaking, some people just don’t know how to keep unwelcome opinions to themselves. More specifically, teachers get a lot of verbal garbage directed our way in the course of so-called polite conversation. How to respond? Here are some common and unwelcome thoughts that people share with us along with possible responses to use as desired or needed.

Comment #1: “You seem too nice to be a teacher.”

Ah, one of those insults that is disguised as a compliment. What’s not to hate about that? When someone shares this observation with me, I get offended on a few levels. Why would they assume that I’m nice, first of all? I have a mean streak a mile long inside my head. Seriously, though, what kind of twisted mind assumes that people who choose to become teachers are terrible humans? In response to the delightful comment above, some options include:

  • “The best people I know are teachers.”
  • “We just met. I might not be as nice as you think I am.”
  • “Let’s not go there.”
  • “Okay, good meeting you.”


Comment #2: “I bet you’re not happy to go back to work now the pandemic is ending.”

Yeesh. How many times do we have to tell people that what they really mean is “back to the school building,” not “back to work?” As far as I can tell, teachers somehow managed to work harder this past year. We taught ourselves to teach virtually, to check in with students at a distance, and to get knocked down endless times when technology crashed – and we still got right back on the horse. If someone is dense enough not to realize that our work with kids did not come to a screeching halt, here are some replies:

  • “We never stopped working. People just stopped acknowledging our work.”
  • “I can and do teach anywhere. Nothing closed last year except for buildings.”
  • “I’m excited to see my students in person again; we had a long year of learning together online, and it will be much better to be together in the classroom again.”
  • “I’m grateful for those who understand just how complex remote teaching is.”


Comment #3: “I wish I only worked for 10 months out of the year.”

Anyone want to star this comment as a particular favorite? No takers? First of all, most of us do not work for 10 months. We keep planning throughout the summer without pay, or we attend professional development training sessions on our own dimes. Even if we do take two well-deserved months under a beach umbrella, we are not being paid. If someone we meet expresses a desire to work for 10 months, maybe they also want to be paid for 10 months? If we hear one more word about this, some words of our own might include:

  • “I wish I were paid for 12 months out of the year.”
  • “Then I encourage you to enter the teaching profession and see what it’s really like.”
  • “The reality is that we work year-round and in the evenings. All that overtime without pay is not as great as you think.”
  • [Stare at the person in uncomfortable silence and then walk away.]


Comment #4: “Those who can’t...TEACH.”

This tired, overused adage is just gross. It also makes no dang sense. How can someone who has no idea how to do something teach it to someone else? I personally had to understand all the silly, inconsistent intricacies of English grammar (yes, gerunds, I’m talking about you) before I could become certified as an English teacher. The continuing education all teachers undergo to maintain our certification is demanding and time-consuming, but we welcome the opportunity to learn more with each passing year. Above all, being an effective teacher isn’t just about knowing how to do something; it’s about making sure that kids can do it, too. That is no simple feat. If someone is dumb enough to come at you with this icky thought, you might wish to say:

  • “That again? I wonder when that old line will finally die.”
  • “What are you suggesting about teachers when you say that, exactly?”
  • “Why did you just say that to me?”
  • “Yep, this conversation is now over.”

We can’t possibly change people’s minds about teachers with a few snappy comebacks. However, we will get some modicum of relief from not letting people insult us and pretend it’s a joke. Public perception of teachers has taken an even bigger hit over the past year, which is both undeserved and wrong. Instead of letting people think we enjoy a “short day, short year” job and that virtual teaching was a cakewalk, let’s speak up and defend the reality of what we do. If we show respect for our chosen pathway as educators, the courage of our convictions will set the example for others to do the same.

Written by Miriam Plotinsky, Education World Contributing Writer

Miriam is a Learning and Achievement Specialist with Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, where she has worked for nearly 20 years as an English teacher, staff developer and department chair. She is a National Board Certified Teacher, and recently earned her certification in Education Administration and Supervision. She can be followed on Twitter: @MirPloMCPS

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