Sometimes I land at a brunch table with a friend who is a teacher and a couple of friends who are not. It’s always an odd situation, because my teacher friends and I launch off chatting about our “Kids” (Note: we don’t yet have children, we’re referring to our students.) and using words that literally nobody else at the table fully understands. Every line of work has its own lingo, but teaching lingo is particularly tricky because many of the words and phrases we use have non-teacher meanings that aren’t exactly the same.
In an effort to help out all the non-teachers out there, and to entertain all you actual teachers, I have come up with a glossary of commonly thrown-around teacher lingo and their meanings within the context of education.
Do School: I often talk about which groups of kids can and cannot “do school.” In order for a student to “do school,” they should arrive to classes mostly on time, at least attempt work, and have a basic understanding that their effort determines their grade. A student who can’t “do school” skips my class for three weeks in a row, then shows up in my classroom during a section that is not their own and asks a question like “Do you really have the AUDACITY to give me a zero on the paper I plagiarized?!?!?” Yes, yes I do.
P.D.: This technically stands for Professional Development, but for most teachers it means “Time that I could spend planning lessons and communicating with families, but instead I am listening to a guest speaker who has less experience than I do tell me things I already know.”
Meetings: Typically this is yet another word for “wasted time.”
Accommodation/Differentiation: These words describe the slight changes teachers might make in lessons or assignments in order to make it more accessible for a students with disabilities. This could mean increasing font size for students with visual impairments, inputting word banks or side notes for students with reading challenges, and even reducing the number of items on a task for students with slow processing speeds.
Off-Task Behavior: This kid won’t stop moving and or talking long enough to get anything done and I am seriously no longer sure they can read or write.
Fluency: This has nothing to do with foreign languages. Fluency for teachers refers to fluid, clear, and expressive reading. Only when a child can read fluently can they fully comprehend what they’re reading.
Squirrely: This is how we describe students who are super fidgety, unmotivated, and just want to break out. If you need an example, come to my classroom on a Friday afternoon.
Graphic Organizer: These are so hot right now. Graphic Organizers are basically just worksheets with simple directions and designated spaces for students to input their thoughts in a structured way.
Prep/Planning Block: A.k.a. our only moments of peace within the disorganized vortex that is our career.
IEP: This stands for Individualized Education Plan, which is the document all special education students has attached to them. This document spells out which cognitive areas are impacted by the student’s disability, and what extra supports need to be put in place to ensure that student’s success. As a special education teacher, these documents also define my schedule and daily duties. I meet with families every year and update their kid’s IEP to make sure that their supports still fit their needs.
Resource Room/Academic Support: This is how students with mild to moderate special education needs are serviced, and it is what I do for a living. A resource room or an academic support room is a place where kids who take “regular” classes for one section each day to access resources and receive individualized tutoring.
Higher Order Skills: When I was a kid, 99% of my assignments were memorization tasks. Nowadays we like to push deeper, more analytical thinking onto our students. Higher order skills are the more challenging thought processes you need to engage in so that you can truly understand and de-construct information.
ELL: Pronounced “elle,” this is what we call students who are learning English.
Social Prag Kid: I hate labeling kids with their formal disability title. When I am referring to a student with a speech challenge or on the autism spectrum, I’ll often just say they’re a social prag kid, short for “they’re a kid who struggles to understand social cues.”
My Kids: What all teachers call their students. And yes, teachers who actually have biological children still call their students their “kids.”
Modeling: Not at all a fashion thing. Modeling is a way of demonstrating the steps of a procedure and providing a positive example of a piece of academic work.
Teacher Tired: You might think your job is exhausting. But you don’t know exhausting until you’ve been on your feet for 8 hours dealing with the problems of the youths all day. Then you have to go coach, then go tutor, then go jogging because you managed to sign up for yet another race that requires training. Teachers often go to bed between 8 and 9pm, and here’s no shame in that! Also, let it be known that the only known cure for Teacher Tiredness is Starbucks.
Meta-cognitive Thought: This means reflecting on your own thinking in learning in a constructive way. We all want our students to know how they learn best so that they can seek out what supports and resources they need.Typically, though, we’re trying to convince our students that no, you’re not dying, it’s just gas, please complete your worksheet.
Cray: an adjective used to describe particularly hormonal students.
High-Impact Parents: Parents who are either lawyers themselves or lawyered up and walk into every email exchange as if it’s a courtroom. But, like, I’m just letting you know that parent teacher conferences are on Tuesday!
Hope this was somewhat enlightening.
Now You Tell Me…
- Does your career come with it’s own sub-language?
- Have you heard any other teaching terms that you’d like a definition for? Send ’em my way.
- How’s your week going so far?