Skip to content

No Place for Sarcasm in the Classroom

October 22, 2014

Sarcasm is defined by as:SARCASM

1. harsh or bitter derision or irony.

2. a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark:

Origin: 1570-80; < Late Latin sarcasmus < Greek sarkasmós, derivative of sarkázein to rend (flesh), sneer

That’s scary. To “rend flesh.” Really? Do I want anything I say to my students to be categorized as harsh or bitter?

I always have the talk with my teachers about the danger of using sarcasm in the classroom. It is a deterrent to building relationships of respect with students and colleagues. Young students are literal and don’t get it at all, yet several middle school and high school bound teacher candidates have attempted to persuade me that they use it well and that older students “get it” and like the “humor.” Sarcasm and humor are very different.

My responses:

  1. I love a good laugh. I hate a sarcastic remark.
  2. If you are using sarcasm to act cool, forget it. Once you enter the classroom as the teacher, no matter how young you are in years or spirit, you can no longer be cool to a 16-year-old student. My example is that I became “Old Lady Carpenter” at the young age of 22. It was hard when my U.S. History students asked me how I survived the depression, and what dances I did in the 50’s. Deal with it.
  3. When you use sarcasm in the classroom, students may appear to laugh with you just because you’re the teacher. But when they leave the classroom, they aren’t laughing with you. They are laughing at you.
  4. Students may laugh to save face. I do it when confronted with sarcasm, but I am thinking to myself that there was some truth in what the person said sarcastically. They really did mean to put me down, and my reaction is not that the person is comical but that the person is a jerk. Is that what you want students to think of you?
  5. If you use sarcasm, you are saying that it is okay for your students to be sarcastic. (See responses #3 and #4.) Sarcasm becomes teasing and teasing becomes bullying. Is that what you want in your classroom?

As teachers it is our charge to treat all students with respect and to provide a safe learning environment in our classrooms. Sarcasm is not respectful discourse and is often used as a bullying tactic.

Melanie Glenwright is researching sarcasm…..

It works something like this: when we (adults) encounter sarcasm we first process the literal meaning of the words being spoken, then we suppress an urge to respond to that literal meaning, then we look for the true intent of the words based on facial expressions, intonation and familiarity with the person speaking the words. At that point, we’ve recognized sarcasm and can respond accordingly, often with laughter or an icy stare.

Kids, on the other hand, are left wondering what the joke is.

Glenwright says her research could be a boon to educators, as it helps shed light on the origins of teasing, which can turn into bullying at later stages of child development.

University of Manitoba. (2007, August 9). Getting Sarcastic With Kids. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from

Students prefer teachers who create a positive environment, teachers who are patient, caring, kind, and respectful. … it helps if you can  tell a good joke:)

A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned

October 11, 2014

Linda C.:

An important perspective for all teachers……

Originally posted on Granted, and...:

The following account comes from a veteran HS teacher who just became a Coach in her building. Because her experience is so vivid and sobering I have kept her identity anonymous. But nothing she describes is any different than my own experience in sitting in HS classes for long periods of time. And this report of course accords fully with the results of our student surveys. 

I have made a terrible mistake.

I waited fourteen years to do something that I should have done my first year of teaching: shadow a student for a day. It was so eye-opening that I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of ten things – the layout, the lesson plan, the checks for understanding. Most of it!

This is the first year I am working in a school but not teaching…

View original 1,853 more words

Back to School Precepts Blog Series

September 17, 2014

backtoschoolToday I completed the Back to School Precept of the Day Blog Post Series. My hope is that  these precepts will support you in planning for a successful school year.

1. Precepts: Principles to Live and Teach By

Precept 1: “Kids may remember nothing we tried to teach them but they will always remember how they and their ideas were treated in our classrooms. Kids who come back…..remember climate, relationships, and how they felt. They are just like us actually. We loved the teachers who made us feel lovable, intelligent, important.”

(Kohn, 2006, pp. 150-51).

2. A Welcoming Classroom Community for All Students

Precept 2: Welcome and Accept ALL students.

 “Subtle and overt forms of racism and prejudice hinder relationships between students and teachers and impede learning. The more obvious one’s cultural difference is, the greater are the chances one may experience prejudice or discrimination.”

(Lindsey, R., Graham, S., Westphal, R., & Jew, C., 2008, p. 12)

3. Partnering with Parents

Precept 3: “The relationships you foster with your students and their parents are extremely important. Children appreciate teachers who treat them like human beings. Parents appreciate a teacher who cares enough to include them in their child’s education.”

(Working with Students and Parents, 2006, LDOnline:

4. Be a Part of Your School Community

Precept 4: “The nature of relationships among the adults within a school has a greater influence on the character and quality of that school and on student accomplishment than anything else.”

(Barth, 2006)

5. Speak Up At School

Precept 5: “The campaign against bigotry involves all of us. Each of our voices matters, and each is vital to creating inclusive schools—schools that embrace the great diversity of our nation.

So speak up. Don’t let hate have the last word.”

Teaching Tolerance

6. It’s About Time

Precept 6: “Time is priceless. You have it, but you don’t own it. You spend it, but you can’t keep it. And once it’s gone, there’s no getting it back. Use it wisely!”


7. Organizing a Welcoming and Safe Classroom!

Precept 7: “Master teachers use the classroom space to support educational goals. They see the physical space as a component of teaching that can motivate and engage students, reduce behavioral problems, and heighten learning.”

(Carpenter, Fontanini, & Neiman, 2010, p. 72)

8. Building Relationships with Students

Precept 8: “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship of mutual respect.”

Dr. James Comer

9. Responding to Student Behavior

Precept 9:

buehner quote

10. The Key to Classroom Management – Plan to Prevent Problems

Precept 10: The most effective way to deal with difficult behavior is to prevent it.

11. The Decisive Element in the Classroom: The Teacher

Precept 11:

The Dilemma

“I have come to a frightening conclusion. I am the decisive element in the classroom. It is my personal approach that will create the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher I possess tremendous power to make a student’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a student humanized or de-humanized.”

Haim Ginott


Have a great school year!


Our interactive notebooks for recording and reflecting  were an overwhelming success!

interactive notebooks

The Decisive Element in the Classroom: The Teacher

September 17, 2014

Precept of the Day

The Dilemma

I have come to a frightening conclusion. I am the decisive element in the classroom. It is my personal approach that will create the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher I possess tremendous power to make a student’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a student humanized or de-humanized.

Haim Ginott

This has guided my professional practice for years. The responsibilities I have as a teacher are overwhelming. It is my responsibility to provide a safe classroom for all learners, to know my students’ learning and emotional needs, to plan engaging and differentiated instruction, to nurture professional relationships, parent relationships, and student relationships, AND to commit to lifelong learning. As one of my pre-service teachers remarked some time ago, “This is hard work!”  This is so true. It is not easy, but it affords the most rewarding joys you can ever imagine.Neon heart


Never forget the awesome responsibility you have to your students! What will you do in your classroom?



The Key to Classroom Management – Plan to Prevent Problems

September 10, 2014

Precept of the Day

Back to School Series

The Key to Classroom Management-Prevention

The most effective approach to  classroom management is a framework that is rooted in preventing problems from happening. It sounds simple, but is anything but. Everything that has been mentioned in this series of Back to School Blog Posts is focused on prevention.

  1. Preventive Strategies: Those systems and/or procedures created by the classroom teacher AND students to provide for an orderly classroom environment.
  2. Supportive Strategies: Those systems and procedures created by the classroom teacher and students to support desired behaviors.
  3. Corrective Strategies: Systems and procedures to change negative behaviors into desired behaviors.


This framework is very similar to the PBIS approach recently adopted by many schools.

PBISpyramidFrom Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports

We spend most of our time on preventing problems, and this is successful with most of our students. But we need to be ready to support students who are struggling with behavior and have interventions ready to correct more challenging student behaviors.

Preventive Strategies

  • Get to know students names, interests, hobbies, and learning styles.
  • Get to know parents and caregivers and communicate often.
  • Use activities for students to get to know each other.
  • Facilitate student created classroom norms. Have clear expectations for the classroom.
  • Teach and practice routines and procedures to provide clear expectations.
  • Morning meetings and class meetings
  • Team building activities.
  • Plan engaging lessons!!!

Supportive Strategies

  • Teach the problem-solving process.
  • Teach conflict resolution strategies.
  • Provide fidget toys or other strategies for students who have trouble sitting still.
  • Provide a “cool down corner” or “think tank” a quiet place where students can go to think or cool down.
  • Talk to parents as partners.
  • Use non-verbals and proximity for struggling students.
  • Walk and Talk – Spend time talking with students about things other than school.
  • Celebrate small successes.

During two minutes each day for 10 consecutive days, find a way to develop a relationship. Stay away from expressing anything critical during this time. It is time to share information about yourself or ask questions to get to know the other person better. If the other person is reluctant to talk or rejecting, do not get discouraged. Make a commitment to keep at it every day for two weeks.

Mendler, A. (2012). When teaching gets tough: smart ways to reclaim your game. Alexandria VA: ASCD.

Corrective Strategies – It is time for differentiation. What works for one student may not work for another.

  • Talk with parents.
  • Ask advice of other teachers.
  • Talk with principal and student support team.
  • Have a plan to provide a safe classroom for all students.
  • Consider behavior contracts, point sheets, or setting goals.
  • Plan a conference and make a plan.
  • Conduct a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) and implement a behavioral intervention plan (BIP).

Don’t give up. Find the help you and your students need. Students are depending on you to support them throughout the year. It’s a journey.

Responding to Student Behavior

September 8, 2014

Precept of the Day

(Part of a Series of Back to School Posts)

Working with Challenging Students


You are back to school and have spent the first days building relationships with colleagues, parents, AND students. You know their names and are getting to know their interests, hobbies, and personalities. During the first week you introduced the importance of classroom community by facilitating  student-created classroom norms, giving students voice and choice and making sure students know you are invested in their success. You taught and practiced classroom procedures, routines, and transitions so that students have clear expectations for behavior and learning in your classroom.

 But even the best laid plans will not reach all students immediately. You will have students who come from challenging home situations, have a history of challenging school situations, and do not trust you …..yet. You have to earn their trust and it may not be easy.

The most important thing to remember is to keep trying. Keep trying to connect with students. Keep showing that you care and that you are trustworthy. So even when it is hard. Keep calm. Be patient. And always treat students with respect.


  • Build a relationship first.
  • Be prepared.
  • Be fair. Be consistent. Be firm.
  • Do not become angry.
  • What are the consequences? (Be ready.)
  • Support students in corrective actions.

Early in the school year, introduce the Problem Solving Process to students so that they can self-regulate and learn to make better choices.

See Previous Post on Working with Challenging Students.


The Problem Solving Processproblem solving poster

  • Identify the problem–What did I do?
  • Analysis – Why did I do that? What was I feeling?
  • Brainstorm – What are other choices I could have made? What could I have done differently? Think of at three alternatives
  • Analyzing the possibilities. What would have been the results of these actions?
  • Selecting the best Solution. Which solution is the best?
  • Planning a course of action. Next Steps: What will I do next time?

See Previous Post.



To support students in making better choices as they work with other students, introduce strategies for Conflict Resolution.  This is especially important in elementary school on the playground and riding the bus. Conflict Resolution  is also important for middle school and high school students who have not mastered the skill. See Previous Post.

peace bridge

It takes time to build trust, relationships, and community. Along the way remain patient and make sure they remember you as a kind and caring person, a teacher who really makes a difference.

Building Relationships with Students

August 27, 2014

 Precept of the Day


No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship of mutual respect.

Dr. James Comer

The master teacher is deliberate in establishing a functioning learning community by devoting time and energy to building relationships. The relationship between the teacher and the student is perhaps the most significant piece of the learning equation, followed closely by the relationships among students. Master teachers use activities on the first day of school that initiate this process and persist throughout the school year to continue to develop and maintain positive individual and group dynamics. While getting-to-know-you activities begin the process of forming positive relationships, team-builders continue the process and are used throughout the school year. (Carpenter, Fontanini, & Neiman, p. 80, 2010)

I have trouble convincing my pre-service teachers of this. They are so overwhelmed by the body of curricular content that they are responsible for teaching that they feel an immediate need to start teaching math on the first day. The truth is the time spent on building relationships during the first days and then revisited throughout the school year will provide a huge payout in the time saved on behavioral issues. You have to take the time now to save time later.Building Relationships in the Classroom

Five Ways to Build Relationships During the First Days of School

  1. Meet/Greet students at the door and get to know students’ names
    • Get your class lists and rehearse
    • Check last year’s yearbook for pictures
    • Use name tags, name tents, or desk plates. Have students decorate these with three of their favorite things.
    • Use a photo seating chart. (Great to have for substitutes too.)
    • Use activities to learn student names. Circle of Names: Direct students to sit or stand in a circle. Ask them to think of an adjective that describes them and starts with the first letter of their name. Provide a word bank of adjectives for each letter of the alphabet. Start by modeling. For example, if your name starts with an L, you could pick the word lucky, Lucky Linda. Have the first student share his or her first name and adjective. Move around the circle. Ask each student to share and repeat those before him/her. You will go last and repeat all the students’ names.
  2. Let students get to know you.
    • Have an engaging and creative way to introduce yourself to students as a real person. Create a PowerPoint, Prezi, or a movie trailer with pictures of you and your family enjoying your interests and hobbies.
  3. Provide opportunities for students to get to know each other.
    • Let students share their information like you did. They could create a PowerPoint, Prezi, movie trailer or a collage. There are a variety of get-to-know activities where students interview, interact, and share information. I have collected a variety of resources on my Get to Know Teacher and Student Pinterest Board. A great resource is Scholastic.
  4. Find out students’ interests. It’s easy. Ask them.
    • Have students complete a survey. You could easily do it in the classroom or  online with Survey Monkey or Google Forms. More Scholastic Printables.
  5. Have clear plans and procedures.
    • Procedures are the daily routines of the classroom and they being on the first day.
    • Have something for students to do as soon as they walk in on the first day and every day. Post it on the overhead or Smart board. Actively engaging students in their classroom is a powerful way to prevent problems and build community. Have students decorate name tents or name tags and be ready to share with a classmate.

Have a good school year with your students!


%d bloggers like this: