24 Things A Teacher Should Never Ask A Student To Do

by TeachThought Staff

1. Meaningless work

It’s fine to start with an academic standard, but standards aren’t meaningful to students. Either make the work meaningful, or shelve it until you can. If you can’t, ask someone in our department, building, or PLN.

If they can’t, let’s change the standard.

2. Read out loud if they don’t want to

You’ll have a pretty good instinct here who is fluent orally and who isn’t. While reading aloud with fluency is indeed an important literacy standard, little good comes of forcing students to read out loud when they really, really, really don’t want to.

The key may be, then, making them want to.

3. Set generic goals

Try not to ask students to get ‘goals for themselves’ without showing them how to make authentic, relevant, or even S.M.A.R.T. goals.

If the goal isn’t as closely matched to their own human potential as possible, it’s generic.

4. Confuse school with life

If you can’t seamlessly merge school and the ‘real world’ through place-based education, project-based learning, and the like, then make a clean break. Don’t mislead them that they’ll need to learn Calculus to balance their check books.

5. Confront their fears for a grade

See #2.

6. Look down on their family and friends

Their friends may be shaky, and their family might at times be worse, but they’re friends and family nonetheless, and in all but the most exceptional circumstances, that will be always bigger than your content area or your classroom.

7. Aspire for college without clarifying exactly why

And that doesn’t mean fall back on ‘to get a job.’

8. Offer uniformed opinions

Unless you’re simply using that uninformed opinion as a starting point. Otherwise, don’t ask them to pretend to be informed. They’ll end up with an over-inflated sense of self, and a lack of respect for authentic understanding.

9. Value answers over questions

Answers serve questions, which serve learning, which serve the student. In that order.

10. Please you

If they want to make you proud, that’s fine and can even be the push they need to become something great.

But this can backfire, coming off like this: “Be compliant. Do what I say, when I say, how I say, and you’ll be okay.”

Compliance is fine, but it can’t be the alpha and omega of your classroom’s tone. Curiosity, interaction, and citizenship are better starting points.

If they become programmed to please others, where will that lead them throughout the course of their lives? Maybe somewhere great, maybe not.

But it’s a legitimate question worth asking.

11. Be something they’re not

There is a thin line here between making a student feel allowing a student to think they’re not smart/good readers/creative, etc., and honoring the fact that they’re just not wired a certain way. Your teacher instincts should help here.

And never, ever, ever compare them to their brother, sister parents, etc., unless you’re doing so in some kind of communal and loving way.

12. Make promises they can’t keep

You can ask them to reach, but don’t set them up to fail. And this goes for ‘contracts,’ too.

13. Grade one another’s work

In almost all circumstances, this is a bad move. Save time some other way. Give one another feedback, yes; grade, no.

14. Compete with anyone other than themselves

Creative expression, informed individuality, and a strong sense of self-efficacy will get them further than mastering every standard on the curriculum map.

15. Tell on their friends

I get why this sounds like it should be okay, but it’s not okay.

16. Make decisions…

…that have absolutely nothing to do with school, knowledge, wisdom, projects, etc.–dump a boyfriend or girlfriend, for example. You’re probably smarter than this, but you may have an especially ‘good’ student dating someone especially boneheaded.

Leave this one alone.

17. Do something without modeling

If you, or peers, or others in your network can’t show them how, then unless they’re chomping at the bit to be intellectual pioneers, you made to rethink the work.

18. Ignore peer pressure

You do remember high school, don’t you?

19. Worry

Strong teachers don’t motivate students through fear. Find another approach because while it may work in spots, it’s not sustainable.

Or kind.

20. Always work with partners

Collaboration is just one learning strategy. No matter how many times you hear it thrown about—or how many times you see it work—there is a time for independent thinking and planning, and a time for working together.

21. Lie to another adult

Not even a sub.

22. Dream big without showing them how

You might be surprised what they’ve never seen.

23. Buy things 

Never make them feel like they have to spend money or have certain material possessions for your class unless you’re absolutely sure they can afford it.

Update: 24 from Natalie Annabelle from our facebook community:

“Never ask a student to respond for an entire culture, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation etc., based on perceived/known membership in group– in front of the class. Do your research ahead of time– you should not be asking a student to clarify something that may not be their reality or identity. Asking a student to volunteer more of their experiences after they initially volunteered their own information is different than asking a student who looks Indian about Hinduism.”

Things A Teacher Should Never Ask A Student To Do