Teachers' Advice

01 January 2010
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TES web site imageThe Times Educational Supplement website includes number of forums. A particularly popular one which has been running for some years can be found at http://community.tes.co.uk/forums/t/184713.aspx?s_cid=16. This was the original posting.

I'm having a real problem with behaviour at the moment. I'm not very good at quick responces to pupils comments. I know I shouldn't get in to a discussion with them but I'd like to have one liners to use.

Can anyone think of any common things pupils say, and a quick come back that works. Other than of course just ignoring it, which I try to do with most silly comments.

Here's one...

"This is boring.."

Obvious typing mistakes have been corrected in this and subsequent quotations, but spelling and punctuation have been left unchanged.

Here are a few straightforward suggestions:

'Not as boring as detention...'

'So is listening to you whine'

'In KS1 kids do try it on with the "its boring" comment or usually "I don't want to do this anymore or I'm tired of colouring this picture ... "

To which I usually reply 'Well you've still got to do it ... and its now or in your playtime ... the choice is yours!'

If you think this is boring, concentrate or you'll spend your life packing those textbooks for the next generation

To 'this is boring' i always reply, 'this is school, you're not supposed to be enjoying yourself'.

'YOU'RE boring'

'No. THIS is boring' I then gave him the oldest, crappiest text book in size 8 or 9 Times New Roman font and made him copy out for the rest of the lesson while the rest of his class went on the drums! He was sick as a dog! Mwuhahahaha!

There are a few posts from teachers who find this kind of approach deplorable, but the great majority reveal a similar hostility towards and dislike of children. It seems that in many classrooms there is open warfare between teachers and pupils.

When they say I'm sorry miss (they sometimes mean it sometimes don't, if I feel it is not genuine) I respond - you will be - the class tend now to join in as a chorus. They are getting used to me!

'You hate me'

'I hate eveyone, you're not special'

One pupil said to me 'Miss you have the fattest earlobes that I have ever seen' to which I replied 'And you have the lowest I.Q that I have ever read'

In response to 'It smells in here!' I always find my mother's old reply the best: 'It was fine until you walked in...'

When students comment on my appearance I wonder out aloud to the class why its always the least attractive students who seem to think its ok to insult my appearance or 'you with the braces want to comment on my shirt?'


P: 'Sir, why do you always pick on me?' ME: 'Because you're ugly' I was very proud of that one!

'Never mind, maybe all that acne will disappear along with your appalling behaviour when you grow up'


Other popular themes are masturbation and homosexuality.

You tell the class they have a test tomorrow, and will accept no excuses for not doing it. A boy pipes up 'But Miss, what if I'm suffering from complete sexual exhaustion?' The teacher answered: 'Well, you'll just have to write with your other hand'

One year 10 boy was happily talking very loud about watching porn with his dad (yuck !!) so I told him to 'be appropriate.' Within 2 mins he stated very loudly he hadn't had sex for 2 weeks. After composing myself, at the very idea, I threatened him with HoF, and then, looking at him, added this 'is that because your wrist is in plaster?'. He had, unfortunately, broken his wrist.

Not exactly a comment, but when teenage boys do that annoying stuff where they keep nudging each other, stealing stuf out of pencilcases etc, and you don't want to move them I've found that saying 'Boys! Please don't flirt with each other in my lessons--wait until break for that' works a treat.

'Are you gay?' Reply:

1. 'No, but thanks for the offer,'

2. 'No, but I would be if I thought my next kid would turn out like you.'

3. 'Yes, but I only fancy attractive people, so you're safe.'

References to parents are also common. The simplest example was just "And so's your Mum," but here are some more:

When some little darling is swearing at you say: 'Please stop swearing, you're not at home now'

Whilst doing my PGCE i heard the best one liner from my HOD: P: Sir, did you get those shoes from Oxfam? HOD: Yeah, and i saw your mum whilst i was in there, she was buying your christmas presents!

Whenever a kid says something along the lines of 'You can't tell me what to do,you're not my dad' I reply: 'No, if I was you're dad you wouldn't be so ugly

It is considered fair to tell children lies.

I have also managed to convince my class that the IWB projector, smoke detectors and alarm sensors in the school contain cameras - I'm sure this wouldnt work with any children older than KS1 but great - if children are lying through their teeth, I simply say 'right I'm off to check the camera.'

Actually it still works with Year 9!

There are some postings from teachers who object to the general tone of the forum, but they are fiercely contradicted.

With reference to some of the postings (note 22) You must respect your pupils i.e. never be rude or put them down. Set a good example towards them. After all they are vunerable and impressionable children. If you cannot do that you should not be in teaching. If you show them respect they will respect you. Want proof: 25years teaching and still enjoying it. My best liner has been 'You're the best class I have taught all day/week'. It always works to promote a positive response.

I'm sorry [name of the author of the previous post], just get a sense of humour. What about those of us who have also been in teaching for years, HAVE used humour/sarcasm etc and love it still whilst getting good GCSE/A level grades? It can happen!

Wooly liberalism is whats wrong with this world ... in my opinion only ... I'm glad teachers are standing up to the constant abuse they receive ... we'd get nowhere with these children if all we said was (in a hippy, left-wing way) 'hey ... let's talk about this and analyse it ... ' God NO! Let's not ... let's just get on with the business of teaching

And after a long and well-argued posting in favour of a more idealistic approach and greater sympathy and understanding of children, this response appeared. The first sentence is a quotation from the previous post.

Even if comments are demeaning, isn't it our job to behave towards children as we want them to behave towards us. No - I thought the job of the teacher was to 'teach'. Explain concepts ideas and methods, set tasks, assess tasks done by pupils. Part of this is maintaining order, IMO. What do you suggest should be done if the teacher is demeaned, abused and dehumanised by pupil comments and actions?

And again:

If we are sarcastic to them and humiliate them, they will think that the adult (supposedly their example to follow) is permitting that behaviour in themselves. If we humiliate them when they are behaving in a totally inappropriate way it sends out a strong message to the whole class, miscreant included, of what happens if you try and humiliate this teacher! Ie don't do it or you'll look silly! Do pupils really mirror behaviour that adults do? This analogy falls down very quickly when looked at. Pupils saw me drive out of school at times -so this is allowed because I do it? Some teachers go off for maternity -meaning they've had sex. Would this excuse pupils having sex. After all, if teachers (adults in stable relationships) do it that excuses pupils, right? I could go on but hope the point that 'if teachers do it pupils will think its okay' is nonsense has been made!

One ex-pupil supports the idealist teachers.

I cannot believe the advice you have been given so far. I was a disruptive pupil at school. Although I was a bright kid I was overlooked by many of my teachers who did not have the insight to put the necessary wheels in motion to discover the source of my unhappiness. If you wish to improve the beahaviour of pupils you need to treat them with respect and understanding; Sarcasm is cheap and will only encourage already unruly children to respond to you in a similar fashion.

There is more from generous and understanding teachers, but the great majority illustrate the extraordinary cruelty and rudeness that is all too often inflicted on children. Here are a few more examples:

If they are not doing something they are told to 'Are you thick or choosing not to follow instructions?'

P: 'Dickhead' (to another pupil) Me: 'By dickhead I'm assuming you mean that his brain is there?' P: 'Yea' Me: 'not even his brain could possibly be that small...' Of course your opinion is valid, its just not wanted or valued...

Do you have a problem? Would you like one?

Pupil had his shirt untucked. Me: 'Please tuck your shirt in, X.' Him: 'Why?' Me: Apart from being school rules, it's to get you used to looking smart when you have a job.' Him: 'I don't wanna.' Me: *I ask him to stand and take his chair away* 'If you're not willing to practice having a job, you can practice standing in the dole queue.''Whole class sniggers. He tucked his shirt in.

'I'm going to look up your behaviour when I get home. I'm no expert, but from what I know, it could well be Tourette's syndrome'.

Student: I need help! Teacher: Yes, I know, but I am not a psychiatrist.

To a child who is being loud, unruly, unco-operative etc: what happens when you forget your pill'

To repeated requests to go out to toilet, ending 'I'll go right here if you don't let me...' -That's fine - mop and bucket near the sink, disinfectant in the cupboard by it, but you're still not leaving the room during the lesson'

It seems to be commonly assumed by teachers that they and their pupils are not equally human.

Me Teacher, This classroom, you pupil, which bit don't you understand about that statement?

After all this, the thoroughly old-fashioned comment from a teacher who apparently still uses a blackboard and chalk sounds almost civilized.

Humour generally works, and if it doesn't I throw the board rubber at them.

Even a flying board-rubber seems better than the total scorn shown by the teacher who made this last posting.

I was disrupted by a student walking down the corridor, grabbing his genitals and shouting '*** that, *** that' at the top of his voice. I called him over, he was naturally still smirking, possibly from a joke that he heard two weeks ago. I explained that other students were still learning, and him shouting '*** that' was not helping them learn. He said, as do they all 'I never said that, I said, I said, I said....shake that.' My response was 'Dear God, you retard.' He said that I could not call him a retard. I looked suitably contrite and said, sotto voce as I turned away, that apparently I could, as I just had. I imagine that by Wednesday next week that final comment will have sunk in. I will of course claim that I said 'You must work hard', and that he had clearly misheard me as I had misheard him. But he will always know, deep down, that I consider him a retard.

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