Don't Say This On Day One

I recognize that some U.S. states began school a couple of weeks ago, but for those of us in the Northeast -- the states that follow the motto, "Yo, no school till after Labor Day" -- school has not yet begun.  I will be starting my 18th year teaching, so I know firsthand how much anticipation is involved with the first day of school: What should I wear?  Will people like me?  What if someone steals my lunch and eats it? And those are just faculty concerns; for students, the list extends even further.

I would like to help students nationwide when it comes to first day etiquette, more specifically what they should not say to their teachers on the first day of school:

1. "Can I just take a picture of everything you have on the board?"
Translation: "Can I just take the easy way out right now, as well as for the rest of the year?"

Granted, the process of putting pen to paper is a difficult one, ranking right up there with opening a bag of chips or interpreting the hands of a clock. But your phone is not intended to take a picture of notes on the board, it's intended to take selfies and to catch families of geese crossing the road. Remember that always.

2. "Can I go to the bathroom?"
Translation: "Can I walk around and stall time?"

No one wants to see an accident occur, as it could be an unwanted life-altering moment for everyone involved.  But when you ask to go to the bathroom every day at the same point into a class period, that's about as suspicious as, well, asking to go to the bathroom at the same point every class period. And, of course, the correct terminology is "May I go the bathroom?" anyway.  This is interchangeable with "Shall I go to the bathroom if it's something that I require at the given moment?"

3. "Will we be tested on this?"
Translation: "Do I need to pay attention?"

Life is not all about tests.  Well, technically, now that I think about it, it is.  There are so many tests in life.  But that doesn't mean that you should verbalize this thought, because holding in this question is, in reality, also a test.

4. "Do you offer extra credit?"
Translation: "Since I don't intend to do the assigned work, is there something I can do to compensate, like make a poster of irrelevant things?"

Here's some extra credit: "Good job with that question."  I'll give you credit for that one, except not really.  Don't worry about extra credit until you first worry about credit.  That is why there are so many commercials about checking your credit score online and how bad credit can negatively impact your life.  After graduation, bill collectors won't give you extra credit; they'll simply give you an incessant number of phone calls with automated voice mails.

If students keep these questions in mind -- and literally keep them there rather than asking them -- the start of the school year will be successful for everyone. And as far as the fear of a stolen lunch goes, just pack really bad lunches and you'll never have to worrry...

But I digress.

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