As in any profession, teachers are expected to maintain professionalism while on the job. Unlike many professions, most teachers work with kids — making those boundaries a bit more complicated, if not rigid. For instance, they can't necessarily speak to their 15-year-old student in the same way they would their 35-year-old colleague. Given that, u/2minutestosundown asked high school teachers, "What is the one thing you want your students to know that you'd never tell them in person?" Many teachers opened up, and their responses ranged from touching and thoughtful to relatable and humorous:
1. "When you think you are being a genius by getting me to talk about random things at the beginning of class instead of 'teaching,' I'm really allowing it to happen because I don't have enough planned to cover a full class."
2. "I wish the positivity you get in my class could follow you home. I've met your parents, and they are a nightmare. I do my best to encourage you here, but I know that, some days, that just might not be enough."
3. "I knew you were cheating, so I gave you a test with the answers in a different order for the rest of the semester. You clearly weren't bright enough to figure it out, and yes, I am that spiteful."
"It was easier than reporting the cheating."
4. "One day, you're going to come across people who are not being paid to tolerate you, and all of a sudden, life is going to become considerably more difficult."
5. "I'm not a teacher but an evening janitor. Part of my area is where the robotics club gathers and works. You guys are so amazing. I wish you could see what I see: a group of kids who are well mixed in ethnicity and gender working hard together. I never see signs of drama when I walk by. Looking through the windows, I can see that you guys are listening to each other and treating each other seriously while also having fun. When you guys leave at night, your room is my favorite to clean. It's always so clean already, and I get to look at your projects and see what all that elbow grease is doing. It's encouraging to know that these kids are part of our future."
"They stay an average of two hours after school every day, and you can tell it's not forced. They are so enthusiastic that their energy practically shines into the hallway. I celebrate every time a new award is added to the trophy cabinet in the hall."
6. "I encourage my worst kids as much or more than my favorites because I don't want them back in my class next year."
7. "We have much better hearing than you assume. We just choose our battles as it pertains to inappropriate comments. Sometimes, I pretend not to see that thing you did just because I, too, found it humorous, and speaking to you about it would only result in me cracking up."
8. "If you're going to eat in class, stop staring at me while you're doing it! You're ratting yourself out. The reason the students aren't allowed to eat is because those are the school rules. I have no say in the matter, and I won't jeopardize my job for it (my supervisor pops in once in a while). If they are truly hungry, they know they can just ask me at the beginning of class to eat outside."
9. "I can smell you. Everyone can. Please, for the love of god, use deodorant. Why I wouldn't say this to a student: 1.) Puberty is a smelly ordeal, and many kids can't help it. 2.) God forbid it's not their fault (infection, a cultural thing, or improper washing of clothes); you don't want to alienate that student forever."
10. "That it's just as weird for me as it is for you when we bump into each other in public. For instance, I went on vacation with my then-girlfriend and bumped into a student three states over. We shook our heads 'no' at each other and kept walking, silently agreeing not to address it. I saw this same student again two months later, during the summer, at a concert where they were underage drinking. We just shook our heads at one another again, keeping that same silent agreement."
"I saw this same student four more times during the summer entirely by accident. It was never discussed."
11. "I moved you away from your friends because they were taking you down with them. You have a real future in sports, but you must pass my class to play them. Your friends were making you fail, and if you don't get to play volleyball, I don't know what kind of future you'll have."
12. "Yes, I put you in a group with the kid you have a crush on intentionally. I'm stuck here with you 180 days a year; I want to see some drama."
13. "I teach special needs 11- to 14-year-old kids, and I'd tell them that growing up will be hard for them. Not everyone will be as understanding or patient as the staff at our school, and they need to learn to reel it in sometimes. I'd also tell them how precious and wonderful they are, even when they drive me mad by repeatedly asking the same question. They might not have the same advantages as other children, but their gifts are just as legitimate as any other child's. Some of them might not know how to flush a toilet, but they sure can draw a perfect replica of the Death Star. Some can't remember their birthday, but they smile every morning and say how happy they are to see us. It's just lovely."
14. "Yes, I do have favorite students. No, I won't tell you who they are because that would discourage you, but yes, they're probably who you imagine them to be."
15. "If I didn't think you would abuse the situation, I would enjoy being more human and casual around you. I think you are a fun person to be around."
16. "My gamertag. I usually say there's a policy against it, but there isn't. I just don't want to play Overwatch or whatever with a bunch of relatively good kids who turn into total monsters when they play video games."
"If I tell the cool ones, it'll get around."
17. "I can definitely hear the horrible things you are saying. Yes, I see you from the other side of the room. I may be 'old' to you, but I am certainly not deaf."
18. "I hate the required texts as much as you do, but everyone just shrugs when I suggest changing them up! I'm sorry they made us keep that awful book on the list. I genuinely offered to buy them all back from students so I could burn the waste of time that they are."
19. "All the things you think your parents and teachers don't know? We do. We've done it all. We would just prefer not to think about you doing it because you're much too young."
20. "As a male teacher, I can't be the best teacher I want to be. I want to have a private conversation with my students, but I'll always ask to keep the door open or have another student within hearing distance. I want to hug you and say 'I'm sorry' after you've told me about something terrible with your home life, but you'll have to settle for me just talking to you. I feel terrible ignoring your PMs or texts when you ask me important questions (or, let's be honest, send me hilarious memes). Because I am a man, I'm terrified of something getting misunderstood and being fired from my job, and then, on top of that, being branded as something horrible for the rest of my life as a result."
21. "Just because I like you as a person doesn't mean that I won't fail you. Being smart isn't a justification for being lazy, and I can't pass someone that never hands in work."
22. "You're unique; you're not special. Set your goals high, but understand that if you change your goals to needs, you will have a lifetime of disappointment."
23. "If your parents email a teacher and argue with them, the whole staff knows."
25. "One of the most valuable lessons I can teach you is to fake looking busy. If we're supposed to be working on an assignment or reading or whatever, and you see me coming your way, at the least, have a piece of paper on your desk, a pen in your hand, and some shit on your paper — then I won't bother you. If you have nothing going on and can't even be bothered to make it look like you're trying, I'm heading your way."
"This lesson will be invaluable with eventual bosses someday."
26. "I often want to tell my students to enjoy themselves more and worry less. I guess I do tell them that pretty often, but what I really wish I could communicate is that it's perfectly natural to break the rules and be a little more reckless at their age. It would be pretty irresponsible of me to tell them that since kids need their teachers to be role models for GOOD impulses, not bad impulses — but sometimes, I want to. Kids today seem very frightened of the future and don't want to take chances, especially when having fun. I don't blame them based on the environments they are raised in."
27. "Your sense of entitlement is most likely acquired from your upbringing, so parent-teacher conferences to discuss your grades aren't going to do anything when the parents just blame us despite you putting in little to zero effort."
28. "I have never and will never find a student intimidating; that's why I laughed at you when you asked me if I 'knew who your father was.' Yeah, he's the manager of a car dealership; that means nothing to nobody. One day, you will meet someone who has real power, and I just wish that I could be there to see it."
"I had a kid throw a desk at me, and while it scared me at the moment, it didn't make me fear him."
29. "If I know your name by the third day of a new school year, that's probably not a good thing."
30. "To my first-year students: Yes, I always know when you didn't do my math because you stayed up late playing Fortnite. You added me as a friend on Epic, so I see that. Also, the amount of homework not done when new Battle Passes come out is so coincidental."
"To a specific first-year student: I support your desire to become a streamer, but editing videos should not keep you away from your homework for a whole week. Plus, your friends always rat you out when you stay home or skip class to make/edit those videos.
To all my high-schoolers: You're dumb, but I love you. I'm not stupid. And while I know you cheat on your homework, I don't care since it's only worth 10% of your grade, and you're forgoing the practice you can get before the test.
To my sixth-graders in math: Dear Lord, you make me cringe so hard I have to take ibuprofen some days."
31. "I wish I could let my students know how dumb they look sometimes and how they need to relax and stop taking themselves so seriously. I also frequently find myself wishing I could rag on kids' clothes or hairstyles that they've obviously put too much time and money into — but these thoughts only cross my mind when they're behaving terribly. That's the unprofessional and petty stuff. I could think of something wiser, but it's Friday, and I'm on my lunch break."
32. "The odds of you using any specific piece of knowledge you learn in high school is slim. The odds of you using some piece of knowledge from high school are near absolute, and you have no idea what it's going to be or when it will happen, so you may as well try at all of it. The biggest thing you're going to learn is how to learn."
33. "I am no longer a teacher, but I remember several days that I felt lazy and wanted to give the class the day off. I never did, though, because I knew the teacher's pet would rat me out."
"Sometimes, even the teachers don't like the teacher's pet."
34. "You are right. The administration is completely out of touch when it comes to technology. I also work better while listening to music on my phone."
35. "I lied when I said I was 40. I was 21 and only a couple of years older than you. I've seen you at the club, and I've seen you partying. Furthermore, I have run into you in public way more than you realize. Half the time, I run away; the other half, you catch me before I can. When we ran into each other at the mall, that guy you pointed to and asked about being my boyfriend was a random Tinder date I just met — definitely not my boyfriend."
36. "I'd let you get away with so much more if you were a decent person who treated others with kindness and respect. Assholes rarely get the benefit of doubt or indifference."
37. "I know shit sucks at home. I see it every day when you come into my class. I see the tears you're hiding, the pain behind that class clown smile, and the emotional fragility behind your tough-guy persona. I know exactly what it's like to come from a broken home. I wish I could do something, but until you come to me, all I can do is try and let you know — with a look, a smile, or a subtle turn of phrase — that I'm always there for you when you need an ear or a shoulder."
39. "I wish I could tell my students — and sometimes do, depending on the individual — that their peers are not thinking about them as much as they think they are. You might be freaking out about that huge pimple, but your friends are thinking about something else. Kids are very self-focused; it's part of their brain development."
What did you think of these? Did they make you rethink your high school experience? If you're a teacher, what's your one thing? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Note: Responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.