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The Back-to-School Special!!

August 17, 2015
To some, there's nothing special about going back to school, not even a back-to-school special (image via wikimedia)

To some, there’s nothing special about going back to school, not even a Back-to-School Special. (image via wikimedia)

Nobody likes going back to school.  Students don’t like it.  Teachers don’t like going back to school either, and teachers are the ones who are paid to be there.  Parents might be glad that school is starting up again, but they don’t have to go every day, so their opinions don’t count.

Even though school can be unpleasant, there are ways to make it easier for everybody involved.

For students, school is a great place to learn diplomacy.  A clever student quickly learns what to say and what NOT to say in certain situations with authority figures.

“Can I Use The Bathroom?” and Other Public School Memories

ADVISE TO STUDENTS: When you ask for permission to use the restroom, don't carry a book with you.

ADVICE TO STUDENTS: When you ask for permission to use the restroom, don’t carry a book with you.

My daughter told me this week that she asked her teacher, “Can I go to the bathroom?”

Her teacher said, “I don’t know.  Can you?”

Some things never change.  40 years ago, we asked the same question, and our teachers gave the same response.  I’m sure 40 years before that, students and teachers did the same thing.  I’m sure nothing will change 40 years from now.

One side of me knows that precision in language is important, but another part knows that a teacher has to be kind of a jerk to use the “I don’t know, can you?” response.  This isn’t being judgmental.  If anybody deserves to be a jerk without being judged, it’s a teacher.  I’m sure teachers at some point became tired of explaining the difference between “may” and “can” every time a kid asked to use the can, so this was a short, snide, and sweet way to do it.

Read more here!!!

Teachers can feel just as negative about school as students do.  If teachers feel down or depressed about their teaching experiences, they need to remember that their emotions aren’t abnormal.  Even famous author J.R.R. Tolkien got depressed when he was teaching.  Tolkien’s exhaustion and depression can be an inspiration to teachers everywhere!


The Famous Author Who Said Teaching Was “Exhausting and Depressing”

If you're exhausted and depressed by teaching, write a famous book.

If you’re exhausted and depressed by teaching, write a famous book.

I don’t know much about the personal lives of authors whose books I’ve read. I think Stephen King was hit by a car once. I think Charles Bukowski drank a little bit. I believe James Patterson (whose books I don’t read) has a bunch of co-authors, so he might have a lot of spare time, but I don’t know what he does with it. The point is, I just read the books (and samples of the books). I don’t know anything about the authors.

Yesterday I found out the JRR Tolkien (author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) taught at several colleges while he wrote. I think I might have known that at some point in my life, but I found out again yesterday. An old colleague of his found an old letter that Tolkien had written to him, and in this letter Tolkien said that teaching was “exhausting and depressing.”

Read more here!!!


If you’re a parent, you’re not safe from being stressed out by school either.  You never really know what’s going on with your children at school when you’re not there to watch over them.  They might lie about what’s going on or not say anything at all about what they’re going through. You know things are bad when they even lie about what their assignments are at school.

My Daughter Lied In Her Memoir

(image via wikimedia)

(image via wikimedia)

“I’m sorry for your loss,” my oldest daughter’s English teacher said to me after I introduced myself to her during Literacy Night at the local junior high.  The teacher seemed earnest, and her statement caught me off guard.

“Thank you,” I said hesitantly, out of politeness, as I thought: what loss?

I glanced at my daughter and noticed that her face was reddening, and she looked around the hallway at other parents and students wandering around the classroom.

I felt that asking about my loss would lead to an uncomfortable moment, and I do whatever is possible to avoid uncomfortable moments, so I moved on to another topic.  My daughter’s grades were good, the teacher said, she was a wonderful writer, and she talked a little too much in class.  That sounded about right, but I was curious about the loss I had suffered.

Read more here!!!



Since nobody has yet figured out how to manipulate time, nothing can save students/teachers/parents from the upcoming school year.  Yes, we can use strategies to make it better, but it’s coming whether we’re ready or not.  It’s not all bad news, though.  If you’re truly dreading school, just remember: be patient and wait… because the school year will always come to an end.


What do you think?  What are your favorite school memories?  What were your least favorite experiences in school?  What can you do to make this new school year special?


  1. Sarcastic Elementary teachers are not ok. In first grade I came up with the perfect response to the “Can I go to the bathroom/ I don’t know can you?” quandary. I said “Yup” and peed my pants. (Unapologetically) Sarcastic Junior High, High School, or College teachers are totally cool, by the way.

    • it’s basic pragmatics. In American English discourse, “can you?” I a polite way asking the other person to perform whatever action is attached. It’s a constant problem in teaching English to foreign kids. “Can you say moss?” And the students think “I don’t know, I think so. That th might be troublesome though.” Learning to say, “Say moth” takes a surprisingly long time for most new teachers.

      • I hadn’t thought about what “Can I?” or “Can you?” might mean to students new to the English language.

        If I were a teacher, I might just be grateful that a kid was asking a question, rather than just blurting out that he/she had to use the can (or whatever it’s called now).

    • That took… (dramatic pause)… guts.

      I heard of kids threatening the teachers that they’d pee in their pants, but I never saw anybody go through with it.

    • So, the “can you?”-part is technically a request to go to the bathroom and one would be justyfied to just go? Neat.
      Unfortunetaly, that doesn’t work in German, though we have a similar can-for-please-phrase, but there needs to be a “mal” (“kannst du mal…?”) to engage it.

      But then again: Students shall answer the teachers’ questions, don’t they? Therefore, the appropriate reaction to “can you” would be to leave the room, go to the bathroom, take your time, tell anyone who comes across and asks stupid questions that you’re on a field resesarch required for class, go back right before end of period and tell in a somewhat distressed undertone: “Sorry, Ma’am/Sir, I couldn’t. I tried as hard as hell, but there was no possible way.” All of that with a straight face, of course.
      Definitely need to teach this to my future children.At least so they know about it. Maybe they won’t dare, but the thought of this tactic might lighten their mind a bit.

  2. I love to go to school… 😅

  3. Thanks for sharing! I am a teacher & we go back tomorrow bright & early. This gave me a good laugh.

    • Have a great day tomorrow! Or good luck! Or break a leg!

      What’s the appropriate phrase to tell a teacher on/before the first day of school?

  4. I onced asked my teacher if I could go to the bathroom, she said no, and I did indeed pee my pants. I’d like to say it was voluntary, but it wasn’t. I’d like to say I was in first grade, but I wasn’t. I bet she never said no again.

  5. I understand some teachers. I though for a while, and it can be really tiring. But when there is engament by the students, it is an incredible experience.

  6. Very entertaining, interesting and informative post about students, teachers and parents.

  7. I think, being a university teacher now, I enjoy going back more than at some points in my life. The first days of school were okay, but it got tiring fast.

  8. I always looked forward to going back to school. Buying new supplies is always fun. Plus, I like school in general. I’m a nerd.

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