Tag Archives: teachers

Buried Teacher

Buried Teacher

Informant: I heard this going into 4th grade. So before Mrs. Stern there was a teacher, and she was the best teacher ever. So this was before the school was going to go under construction. You know how it happened? So she went on vacation for one week and had a sub. So on vacation the principal sent a letter to everybody saying that there is no school one day because they are going under construction, but the teacher, the best teacher, didn’t get it because she was on vacation. So one day she went to school and it was quiet. So then she was there and she was like “Okay, let me just do some work”, but then a big wrecking ball comes and it HITS THE SCHOOL! It buries her in it. So in the fourth grade classroom they say that you can her murmmering below the floors

Interviwer: Where did you hear this story?

Informant: from the 8th graders

Interviewer: where and when did you hear the story?

Informant: It was at drama camp, two years ago.

Interviewer: Do you tell this to other kids?

Informant: yes

Interviewer: like who?

Informant: like new kids

Interviewer’s notes:

The fact the that the story was told to the informant during the summer before fourth grade, indicates that this tale can be seen as a type of initiation story for the younger kids in the school. The eighth graders endow the younger kids with “knowledge” as they enter into the later grades of their elementary education. This reaffirms the hierarchy as the younger children enter into the space of the older kids, the eight graders possess knowledge that the younger kids don’t, therefore they should defer to them.


Dance of the lemons

“In Milwaukee, the so-called “dance of the lemons” occurs, where bad teachers are passed along from school to school in the hopes of minimizing their damage.”

The dance of the lemons is an analogy for passing off a bitter partner.  However, only lemons are dancing, so one is guaranteed to end up with another bitter partner.  Although Milwaukee is not known for producing lemons, it is a common fruit known for its bitter taste.  Perhaps this phrase implies that Milwaukee may have more than a few bad teachers.  Although many states have some poor teachers, it is bad sign that so bad teachers needed to be traded that people started naming the practice.

This quote is published on the following website and the article was written by Blake Neff



Those who can do, those who can’t teach.

Charlene has been a teacher for over thirty years.  She did not hear this proverb until later in her career.  It has a very negative connotation and is very offensive to teachers.  It would never be said from one teacher to another, it is usually used by someone who wants to say that they are better than another person because the other person is a teacher.

This is a piece of occupational folklore, but not in the sense that it is passed between teachers, but because it is about teachers, and most of them have heard it at some point.  I have never fully understood this proverb because the people who use it got where they are by learning from teachers.

The first phrase, those who can do, is a very blanket statement that is not always true.  Many people are capable of things they just choose not to do them.  If you look at the statement in terms of the proverb, it is saying those that are capable of something do it, implying that teachers are not capable of doing whatever “it” is.  The first idea that comes to mind when I hear this is an injured person.  For example, if a person works construction gets hurt and can no longer to their job, they can still be involved in what they know by teaching others how to do it.  The fact that a person is trying to help and educate others should not be a bad thing, especially if the person is no longer capable of performing the task themselves.

The net part of the proverb has even more problems, those who can’t teach.  The basic premise of a teacher is a person who is highly skilled or knowledgeable in their field, so much so that they are able to teach others about it.  Wouldn’t this imply that teachers are even more capable than other people? The times when I have heard this proverb used, it was said by very successful people.  I simply do not understand why people would put down the people who are responsible for their success.

Even though this proverb is negative, it is occupational folklore and can work to unite teachers.  People usually identify more with one another and become closer when they are fighting against something negative rather than sharing something positive.