Teachers: how to stop using sarcasm and start building better relationships with students

Great teachers have outstanding relationships with their students. 

Never underestimate the value of these relationships. Whenever you approach a student, start with the heart. That phrase comes from one of my all-time-favorite books, Crucial Conversation, Tools For Talking When Stakes Are High (referral link). And make no mistake, stakes are always high when a teacher approaches a student.

Start with the heart refers to the idea that healthy dialog starts with good motives. Before you enter a conversation, take an intentional moment to ask yourself what you hope to get out of the conversation. When you approach the student, first identify your shared goals and then your intention:

Jay, both you and I want you to get the most you can out of this project, and want the process to be as easy as it can for you. I broke the project up into small pieces so that it is easy for you to complete each part. Yesterday, when you did not submit your outline, I began to worry about whether you would be able to keep up with the project. Can you help me understand what happened? How can I help you get this outline completed and submitted?

Note the difference between the above approach and a common misstep below:

Jay, where is your outline? You will lose 10 points per every day that it is late and I will not accept it after Friday. I also am e-mailing your mom so she is going to ask you about it tonight. I expect it on my desk tomorrow.

The latter example may occasionally get the outline turned in, but it never gets the relationship strengthened. You want both. Do not settle for less.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, do not use sarcasm. Not ever. Especially avoid sarcasm with anyone below high school, but even in high school, sarcasm is a terrible, yes terrible, communications method. The Crucial team identifies sarcasm as a form of violence, and the Greek root means to tear flesh. Sarcasm is, by definition, not genuine. Healthy relationships thrive from genuine communication. Do not get caught in this trap.

If you need a trick to work on your sarcasm, try wearing a rubber band around your wrist for about a week. Each time you see it, remember that you are trying to avoid sarcasm. When you are teaching, or in a meeting, and your hand flashes in front of your face as you gesture, let it remind you of trying to be more straightforward and clear with your students and peers.


Try this for one week. Give it your full effort. Come back and let us know how the experiment worked.

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I fall in and out of love with blogging. I always love teaching and being a teacher leader. And more than anything, getting better.

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College presidents debating the future of higher education at #NAISAC15

I was in attendance when four current and former college presidents discussed and debated the future of higher ed. I was beyond stunned by the future-minded ideas of Southern New Hampshire president Paul LeBlanc. The other presidents painted a familiar, but improving version of the current status quo. Mr. LeBlanc, however, discussed a complete "unbundling" of the college experiences from courses to residential programs to assessments.

One of his most compelling points cited that most colleges say that most of their students are ready for the workforce upon graduation, but that most companies say relatively few students are - no matter the numbers, there is something to deal with in that.

I'd love to hear your thoughts

Read @drjodigold 's book, screen-smart parenting for wise, constructive advice on kids and tech usage

Jodi Gold spoke at my school's Parents Association meeting on finding balance in children’s use of technology (in its various forms). She was entertaining, informative, and most of all, constructive.

I have not read her book (screen-smart parenting) yet (though I purchased it on the spot), but if it is half as useful as her talk, it is a must read.

She gave us practical advice upon practical advice: everything from how to talk to your kids about selfies to creating family guidelines and behavior plans that work, and much more.

The key take away for me was that working on kids’ healthy relationship with technology should begin in nursery school.

Some other tips from her included:

  • have your tween/teen install the self control app
  • don’t spy on your kids, get in the practice of them touring you through their tech world, and giving you their passwords
  • use technology to send people compliments and caring expressions
  • delete embarrassing photos
  • don’t like mean posts
  • unsubscribe from mean group chats
  • do talk about pornography with your kids
  • too many more to list!

Photomath app is blowing my mind via @KarenBlumberg

This app, without overstating it, is a game changer to me. It is a game changer because students will inevitably use it. The challenge for teachers becomes that knowing that, how will we assign work accordingly?

The best assignment I could imagine would be for students to design their own app with the same functionality, the ability to solve problems. What would a computer need to be told to do to be an effective problem solver?

I am not sure why, but I am really stunned by the capabilities of this seemingly simple app.