A Teacher Told My Daughter to Shut Up
My daughter’s math teacher told her to shut up a few months ago, and I just found out about it now. At first, I was a bit concerned when my daughter gave me the short version. “Shut up” seemed like an inappropriate response to a student talking out of turn. “Please be quiet,” or “Would you please focus on your assignment?” seemed more professional. Students have always talked too much in class, especially math, and teachers need to handle that without resorting to “shut up.” At least that was my first reaction.
Then I asked my daughter for more details. In these situations, it’s always good to get more details. She said that the teacher was explaining something (she forgot what it was, she said), and several students were talking without permission, but it wasn’t her (yeah, right, I thought to myself). Out of frustration, the teacher said something like, “You guys are making my hair go gray.”
Then my daughter blurted out, “What hair?”
The class laughed. Her teacher told her to shut up, and everybody went back to work.
She claims he didn’t say “Shut up” in an angry way. His face wasn’t red, and spit wasn’t flying out of his mouth. He said it in a casual way and went about lecturing again. My daughter was just surprised that a teacher would say shut up to her.
I’m a little ticked at my daughter for a couple reasons. For one, my daughter broke my cardinal rule for in-school behavior: don’t be funny in the classroom. Nothing good (except immediate gratification from a laugh) comes from being funny in class. If you don’t try to be funny in class, you probably won’t get in trouble.
Plus, it was a hack joke, even for a teenager. I expect nothing less than original material from my daughters. Going after a male teacher’s baldness is too easy. I wouldn’t want a teacher to make fun of students’ pimples or weight issues or hygiene, so baldness should be off-limits. I asked my daughter if this teacher made fun of any kids like that, and she said no. In that case, she shouldn’t have gone for the bald joke.
I don’t remember many teachers telling students to shut up when I was in school, except an English teacher who’d get frustrated when kids talked during writing assignments. He’d say “Shut up!” whenever a student complained about writer’s block. I don’t remember if writer’s block was a term in the early 1980’s when I was in high school, but if students complained that they couldn’t think of anything to write, this teacher would say “Shut up.” I can’t say that “Shut up” cured my writers block, but the quiet classroom helped me concentrate on my writing in class.
I also heard a teacher call a kid an @sshole once. During a dress rehearsal for a musical in high school, my friend forgot his line. Instead of ad-libbing, my friend stood on stage silently. The other student-actors stood there too, waiting for my friend to remember his line. After a moment, my friend hit himself on the forehead in a symbolic gesture.
“You look like an @sshole!” my drama teacher shouted from the back of the auditorium.
Technically, I guess the teacher didn’t really call my friend an @sshole, but my friend WAS an @sshole, and he knew he was an @sshole, so everything was okay.
Drama teachers probably have to curse at kids to keep them in line. They have too many students running around all over the place, and there’s a show to put on, and the drama teacher gets fired if the performance isn’t any good. When there’s a performance (and a job) on the line, the teacher should be allowed to curse.
The same applies to coaches. High school coaches will say a lot of vile things to get their players fired up. “Shut up” might be mild for a football coach.
I’m surprised teachers don’t say “shut up” (or curse) more often. It’s probably not professional, but most professionals don’t have to stay locked in a room with kids all day. The door might not be locked, but it probably feels locked. When I was a student, the doors felt locked, so maybe teachers feel the same way, except they get paid.
I think my daughter is proud that the teacher told her to shut up. She’s a good student and probably has a reputation of being a goody-two-shoes (outdated term). Getting told to shut up by a math teacher probably gives her a little street cred (updated term). If I remember correctly, it’s good to have a little bit of street credibility so that you don’t get messed with too much. Street credibility is good, but I hope my daughter doesn’t try anything else crazy to get it. And she’d better not get herself called an @sshole.
What do you think? Should teachers say “Shut up!” to students? What are some other things that teachers have said to you? If you’re a teacher, what do you say to students to keep them in line?
My English teacher (who told students to “shut up”) told us we could write anything we wanted to. I wrote a story, and it eventually became…