Any teacher will tell you that students have this remarkable ability to turn whatever you say into whatever they want to hear. Well-meaning teachers give clear instructions and somehow the lines of communication get crossed.
Here’s a list of instructions students seem to always misunderstand.
1. Things teachers say: “Please glue in the sheet.”
The expectation: Should take no longer than 5 minutes, use a reasonable amount of glue and let’s crack on with the rest of the lesson.
What students hear: “Let’s spend half the lesson trimming the edges of the sheet. Then when we are finally happy with our cutting, let’s either use half the glue stick to glue in the sheet and leave our page damp, or let’s use barely any glue at all so that the corners lift up and the sheet is hanging off the page”.
2. Things teachers say: “Today we’ll be working in groups.”
The expectation: Two heads are better than one so more will be even better. It will be a lovely opportunity to work with new people and consider new perspectives.
What students hear: “Jump out of your seat and rush over to your best mates, knocking chairs and people over if need be. Then, sit chatting about absolutely everything but the task you’ve been set, and do the bare minimum in the work department. Group work lessons are socialising lessons after all.”
3. Things teachers say: “Now that I’ve explained the task please begin.”
The expectation: I’ve just spent x amount of time clearly explaining the task and provided resources. They all should be able to complete the task.
What students hear: “Oh snap, I wasn’t listening to a single word. I think now would be the perfect time to blurt out, “I don’t get it,” and make the teacher explain it all again.”
4. Things teachers say: “Are there any questions?”
The expectation: The questions will be based on the topic because that’s what the whole lesson has been about. Students will ask related questions.
What students hear: “Think of the most irrelevant – unrelated – obscure question ever and confuse or distract everyone by sharing it with the class. Or raise your hand and bamboozle the teacher into thinking you have a genuine question and then just ask if you can go to the toilet.”
5. Things teachers say: “Read the instructions before starting your work.”
The expectation: My super bright students will read and follow the instructions and complete the task to the best of their ability.
What students hear: “Reading instructions is long. Let’s scribble down random answers, tick a few boxes, circle something and scream “finished” 2 minutes after the work has been handed to you. Who needs instructions anyway!”
6. Things teachers say: “Today is test day.”
The expectation: We’ve been preparing for this test for ages, I’ve asked them to revise so they should all be ready to go.
What students hear: “Ask “have we got the test today?” even though you’ve been reminded several times. Moan, sulk and request for the test to be postponed despite being given ample time to prepare and ask for help.”
7. Things teachers say: “Your homework is due on Monday.”
The expectation: I’ve provided resources, asked the students to write it in their diaries and I’ve put it online. All the work will be handed in on time.
What students hear: “Claim you didn’t know it was due today after completely ignoring the homework all weekend. Or wait until the last minute and send a frantic email on Sunday night saying you don’t get it.”
8. Things teachers say: “Take this letter home and make sure your parents see / sign it.”
The expectation: They’ll all fold the letter up neatly in their bags and bring it back signed by their parents.
What students hear: “Shove it in your bag making sure it is scrunched up into a crumbled mess. Forget all about it and then be confused and say “I never got the letter” when it’s time to hand it in.”
9. Things teachers say: “Energy / fizzy drinks are not allowed in school.”
The expectation: There are so many other drinks this will not be an issue.
What students hear: “Sneak them into school anyway and moan about how your parents don’t care if you drink them when a member of staff confiscates it from you.
10. Things teachers say: “Please line up in a straight line!”
The expectation: This is a simple instruction, they’ll all line up straight.
What students hear: “Don’t even bother trying to stand behind the person in front of you. Stand on the side of them, or even better wander a bit, and have a cheeky chat with some of your pals.”
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