I had a chat with a Superintendent the other day, a guy who earned a PhD at the age of 36. (gotta be somewhat bright, right?) And he told me that his high school counselor once asked him during his senior year, “So, what are you going to do?”
And he replied. “I dunno. Maybe the Air Force.” To which the counselor replied, “Good… cause these grades demonstrate that you have almost no chance to succeed in college at all.”
It was a statement made to him more than 40 years ago by someone who worked at his school. And he still carries the conversation around with him in his head to this day.
That led to the tale of the woman who was thinking about heading into nursing school, but she felt her low math and science grades might hold her back. To which a teacher replied, “They should. I wouldn’t want any nurse with these kind of grades providing any medical services to me.”
Neither of the two people claimed the adult was being sarcastic. But perhaps these adults were… and their sense of “jokiness” was just simply missed by the kids. Does that excuse them?
Sarcasm can be a dangerous weapon in the mouth of an educator. And I bet if we started taking calls from people who were once cut to shreds on the inside by a teacher who was “just kidding around” our phones would be ringing of the hook.
Laughing with kids is good, good stuff. Laughing at them can be something else entirely and when it comes to teasing, one teacher’s “meant-nothing-by-it” joke can become another student’s “that was really, really hurtful” insult.
Moral of the story: never use sarcasm… just belittle the students directly.