Best Way to Mind Your Language as a Teacher

Most teachers have a ‘teacher voice’, which is a bit like having a tele­phone voice. The way teachers speak and the kinds of things they say are very particular to the occupation. There is a certain level of expec­tation surrounding a teacher’s vocabulary.

All teachers know that swearing in the classroom or at students is unprofessional and completely unacceptable. But what about other things you say that get misinterpreted? Unintentional innuendoes are some of the worse culprits. Most of the time you won’t even be aware what you’ve said until you hear the entire class tittering away. Telling a student to ‘just get it out’ (his pen), or ‘spit it out or swallow it’ (a sweet), is guaranteed to have every class member over the age of 13 giggling in glee. Don’t forget schoolyard col­loquialisms either: even the innocent pencil eraser, known to some as a ‘rubber’, can be considered rude since someone decided it shares its name with a form of contraceptive!

Teacher Best Way to Mind Your Language as a Teacher

Your sotto voce – the things you mutter to yourself under your breath – can be a pitfall too. Although you might not mean your mutterings to be heard, sometimes they will be, and it is even worse if they are misheard.

Sometimes your temper makes you say things you later regret. Even the most calm and reasonable of teachers has been known to utter the odd expletive or questionable phrase when particularly riled.

Remember: the old, yet very effective idea of ‘counting to ten before you speak’ to avoid any potential blunders.

Train yourself to respond instinctively with non-offensive phrases when bad or annoying things happen, such as ‘drat’, ‘oh dear’, ‘fiddle­sticks’ and ‘crumbs’. They might sound terribly old fashioned, but they arc much better than the more common (and not so pleasant) alterna­tives!

If you do accidentally swear in front of your students – and it does happen – it is often best to just pretend you didn’t, and gloss over it! In most cases, your students will not be bothered by it at all, and if they do pick up on it, they will more than likely just find it amusing. As long as you don’t make a habit of it, and never, ever purposefully swear at a child, the odd blooper is permissible.

Be aware: in the rare event that you seriously lose your temper and use any form of taboo language directly at a student, be sure to document it in an incident report afterwards. Include exactly what you said, and tell your department head or senior management straight away. Again, in most cases it is unlikely that you will suffer any serious repercussions, but it is important that you are seen to have recognized your mistake and that you arc prepared to accept responsibility for it.

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