A Blog Covering D.C. Education [ABCDE]

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 13 2010

Overheard in Various DC Locations…

“Mr. K, why you always gotta have everything for a solution [sic]!?”

-Groaning student responding to teacher’s suggestion that she stop complaining about the rain on the National Mall and instead share a spot under the teacher’s umbrella.


“They don’t even let you put your head down; they make you pick it up! And, they make you walk in a straight line! (slight pause.) They always be doin’ too much!”

-Reflective student, describing, while outside the Holocaust Memorial Museum, the pitfalls of being forced to go to CHOICE Academy, the specialized school to which students who have been long-term suspended or expelled go.


“I can’t write 10 lines.”

“Yes you can.”

“I really can’t.”

“Yes. You. Can.  Start writing.”

“I can only write 5.”

“Okay then. Start with 5 and then write 5 more—do it twice.”

“Aargh! You doin’ too much!”

-“Doin’-too-much” teacher and frustrated student attempting to find an excuse not to take a test seriously.


Students of all stripes and colors find pleasure in highlighting those instances where teachers ask too much of them. In DC parlance, “teachers be doing too much.” Ask an unprepared student to come to class with a pencil in hand and one hears, “you be doing too much!”  Instruct a student to turn off and put away his iPod and one hears, “you be doing too much!” Tell a student to read his/her independent reading book and one hears, “you be doing too much!”

One day this week, due to ELL testing, I was forced to take my non-ELL homeroom students out of the school building on a field trip (my first). While it was ironic that the administration was mandating that we sacrifice learning time, I rather enjoyed spending the day at the American History Museum and the Holocaust Memorial Museum with a hodge-podge of students. Throughout the course of the day, though, they frequently expressed their frustration about situations where people in society—most often teachers—expected them to do too much.

One comeback that I like to use is “I’d rather do too much than too little.” I think it’s clever, but it rarely works with my students.

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3 Responses

  1. Once, one of my kids was frustrated because I wasn’t giving him the answer to a problem. He said, “You be doin’ too much!” and I responded with, “Actually, right now I be doin’ too little…” The whole class burst out laughing. Can’t say that it works all the time, but I love turning their slang around on them.

  2. ms. w

    Great insights. Here’s some additional thoughts on this idea of “doing too much.” http://loquacious.teachfor.us/2010/05/26/fighting-low-expectations/

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Really, "A Blog Covering Dilemmas in Education": A (former) English teacher's reflections…

D.C. Region
High School

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