Teaching requires a lot of effort and dedication from the teachers. They need to demonstrate not only good professional skills but also people skills and motivate students to learn. However, even the most experienced teachers can err from time to time by using phrases which can demotivate students and negatively influence learning outcomes. Teachers must realize that every single phrase plays a great role in the way students behave in the class and how they learn.

Here are the top 8 phrases that are never welcomed to be used by teachers.

  1. You will never be able to do that.

Teachers should always encourage students and show the path to success through their continuous support and dedication. As teachers are great influencers, they can find and show students a pathway to achieving success even though students may not have all the necessary traits for that. 

2. You are just lazy.

When teachers repeatedly tell students that they are lazy, it is accepted as absolute truth from students’ side and very soon it becomes a part of who they are. In some cases, teachers label students lazy without trying to find out the real reason why they are not putting in enough effort. Teachers’ role is to find out the reason and help him/her by providing them with tools to overcome the issue.   

3. That’s a stupid question!

Teachers should always answer students’ questions about the lesson or material they are learning in class. Students should never be afraid to come up with questions since through questions they show interest towards the learning material and by reacting to their pursuit of answers we encourage them to learn more and clarify everything they learn. Apart from this, questions are important because they can extend learning and provide teachers with direct feedback.  

4. I’ve already gone over that. You should have been listening.

Our job as teachers is to make sure that every student understands the content. Some students may require more explanation or instruction than others.  New material can be especially difficult for students to grasp and teachers should never get bored or unwilling to reteach or revisit the learned material. In many cases, revising the material will help students to reinforce it. 

5. You’re so smart!

At first sight, it may seem that this is actually a necessary phrase to encourage students.  However,  in this way, we stress the implication that the student was fortunate enough to be born with the necessary intelligence to perform the assigned task. In fact, the praise should address the effort to accomplish the task. 

6. Weren’t you listening to me the first time?

There are students who are not attentive enough to our instructions and later don’t know how to accomplish the task. Probably it will be a waste of time to remind them that they were inattentive. It is better to work on the way of giving instructions. For example, dividing the instruction into small manageable chunks or keeping eye contact with those students who tend to forget instructions. After each instruction practice ICQs (instruction checking questions) to clarify what you expect students to do. 

7. I thought you were smart enough to do this.

If a student is having difficulty with something, it’s important not to belittle his or her struggle. On the contrary, focus on the fact that whatever he/she has already done is the result of the continuous effort and hard work rather than  inborn qualities.

8. I never give A’s.

Back in my university years, I used to have a professor who never gave A’s despite any hard work stating that he has high expectations. However, his behaviour had a negative effect on our learning and decreased our drive to do our best. 

As teachers, we need to realize that there are some things we can say that won’t shape our students into better learners. So, if we see that these phrases don’t make any change even if repeated several times, we need to change them. From time to time, some of these common phrases may slip our tongue and they will not have any negative effect on our students if not used on a regular basis. 

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