Hilarious Definitions of Everyday School Vocabulary Made By Teachers

school vocabulary teacher perspective

There are many things that have very different meanings for teachers than they do for the rest of the world. We asked teachers to write the definitions of some school vocabulary and this is what they came up with.

  1. Pencil- (noun) An object very often supplied by teachers in mass quantities each year that is lost, stolen, or broken by students. Provided for the purpose of writing but more often used as a drumstick, a backscratcher, an ear/nose picker, and to interrupt carefully-planned lessons while being sharpened. When not being used for the above, it has been known to disappear into mysterious black holes in the bottom of students’ bookbags.
  1. Copier- (noun) A machine that senses a teacher approaching and instantly transforms into some state of disrepair and remains that way until the teacher has returned to their classroom. Often referred to as Bob Marley because it’s always jammin’.
  1. Substitute- (noun) A revered human being who rescues teachers in their most desperate time of need. A wonder to behold, these people are willing to enter classrooms with no knowledge of the insanity they’re walking into and somehow manage to keep things rolling.
  1. Laminator- (noun) A machine that is used as a source of warmth and joy, transforming paper products into washable, wrinkle-free, plastified artifacts. Teachers can be seen huddling around to feel its heat and rejoice in the faint smell of burnt plastic and a well-preserved piece of paper in a plastic coating.
  1. Whiteboard- (noun) A place where important instructions are written that are invisible to students unless there is a mistake, an incorrect date, or something inappropriate covertly drawn by one of the students while the teacher was not looking.
  1. Professional Development- (noun) A teacher training session in which trainers who have never taught train teachers in ways teachers never want to be trained. 
  1. Report cards- (noun) A printed record of student achievement that only seems to hold students’ interest 2 days before it’s handed out. No matter how many report cards a student receives, they are equally shocked whenever it’s time for another one to be sent home.
  1. Dry-erase marker- (noun) A highly-coveted writing tool teachers use to reiterate instructions that were already verbally announced several times, but dry up the second they’re needed to be used.
  1. Planning period- (noun) A period of time during the school day allotted for teachers to catch up on mountains of paperwork on their desks but instead, consists of interruptions from last-minute staff meetings and students.
  1. Locker- (noun) A place for students to store personal items, posters of their celebrity crushes, fermenting lunch bags, and smells of various origins. Most lockers also contain a portal to an alternate dimension where borrowed pencils and assignments of importance will be sucked into, never to be seen again.
  1. Backpack- (noun) A portable version of a locker that students use to transport various items. All backpacks also contain a portal that leads to the same alternate dimension where all the missing assignments, pencils, Tupperware lids and important papers that require parent signatures are.
  1. Keys- (noun) Small pieces of metal that teachers misplace in the most random places, only to be reminded of their existence after approaching the door they are meant to be used to open.
  1. Lesson Plans- (noun) A well thought out schedule of everything a teacher wants to accomplish on a given day, that is adhered to for about 10 minutes before chaos envelops the classroom.
  1. Essay- (noun) An assignment that is routinely seen by students as a death sentence as they cannot grasp how any human is capable of producing that number of coherent words. A task that is seen by teachers as hours and hours of correcting some of the most horrific spelling and grammatical mistakes ever seen.
  1. Lunch- (noun) A period of time during the day when teachers attempt to see how many tasks they can accomplish while shoveling food in their face (see also: Planning period).
  1. Group work- (noun) An exercise where multiple students are grouped together, where one student completes 95% of the work while the rest cheer them on. In other cases, “group work” can also be defined as madness and chaos, the likes of which are rarely seen outside of a classroom.
  1. Password- (noun) A string of letters and numbers that everyone forgets after every school break.
  1. Fire drill- (noun) A disturbance that only occurs if and when the entire class is engaged and on task. The fire drill can take anywhere from 5 to 50 minutes and resembles a stampede of wildebeests through the jungle as students from every class pile into the halls and stairways at the same time.
  1. Alarm clock- (noun) A demon beast sent from Hell to remind teachers that it’s time to leave the comfort of their bed at an unearthly hour of the morning.
  1. Seating Chart- (noun) A carefully calculated attempt to figure out how to arrange students in a way that causes the least amount of distraction as possible. Often hours of trial and error will go into creating these elaborate arrangements only to see them go up in smoke within 5 minutes, causing the teacher to rethink their entire strategy and create a brand new, yet equally flawed one.
  1. Kahoot- (noun) An online game through which students create the most inappropriate screen names possible without getting caught, while the teacher tries in vain to impart any semblance of content across to the students.
  1. Appreciation- (noun) A word meant to symbolize how important teachers are in society. The word goes unused most of the year until a one-week period in May, or if a pandemic forces schools to close and parents to homeschool their own children. Generally expressed through the exchange of coffee mugs or pens with fun sayings on them, and rarely (if ever) expressed in a more tangible form (ex. gift cards).


Everyday School Vocabulary: From the Perspective of Teachers in the Trenches

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David Rode

Dave is a middle school math teacher. He's also a musician, a community theater, dad to two amazing children, and he doesn't get a lot of sleep.

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