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Supergirl's avatar

What is an appropriate response to a parent that questions your age in the classroom?

Asked by Supergirl (1686points) September 4th, 2007

I teach 6th grade and have been asked quite a few times how old I am, or if I am “old enough to teach.” How do I answer without answering and offending the parent?

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17 Answers

GD_Kimble's avatar

Maybe you should mount your degree prominently in the classroom.

Hawaiiguy's avatar

enjoy it for as long as it lasts:)!

synapse's avatar

One of my standard replies to nosy questions: If you can convince me why you need to know that information, I’ll consider answering your question.

archer's avatar

just say, “ok. i’m busted”, go to the closet and untie and ungag the real teacher, then go meekly back to your desk, hoping they have a sense of humor.

samkusnetz's avatar

i don’t know… is it absurd for you to state your age and say, quite simply, that you are indeed old enough to teach? seems to me that if the question is asked respectfully, you should answer it plainly. and if the question is asked disrespectfully… you could always come back with a snarky “are you old enough to be a parent?”

zina's avatar

that’s a great question and a tough one to answer – a topic i was just discussing this evening, since apparently people often guess i’m younger than i am (thus questioning my abilities/maturity/etc – and it irritates me) – it definitely deserves a clever response.

the sarcastic direction is definitely tempting – ‘are you old enough to parent?’ as above, or ‘they wouldn’t let me teach here without a degree’, or whatever – but there must be a funnier, more lighthearted way of pointing out how inappropriate the question or statement is…...

you could try throwing them off with ‘oh gosh, thanks, you’re too sweet, you know, i’m so lucky to have such a young face, it’s from my mom’s side, i’m (mouth or whisper this part) 45.’ depending on your acting skills it could be hilarious.

or you could compare yourself and your age to someone else’s work and their age—like, ‘well, and isn’t it amazing to think that most olympic gymnasts are 10–15 years younger than me?’ (there are definitely better examples than that one) or how about, ‘can you believe 90% of women in the world my age are married and have children?’ (pick a real statistic, of course)

in all seriousness, i’m looking forward to people’s ideas. i need one myself.

hossman's avatar

I would find it rude for you to give a rude or sarcastic answer, after all, these parents are taxpayers who fund your salary. Look at it in the long term, the next time a referendum comes up that will fund new facilities or a pay increase, do you want taxpayers to remember that rude teacher when they make their voting decision?

There are legitimate reasons for a parent to be concerned about a teacher who appears young regardless of that teacher’s credentials or ability. They may be concerned their own little darlings may not behave properly because you appear so young. I’d find a way to thank them for their “flattery,” maybe that still makes a point, like: “I know, some people find I look really young. You’d think 4 years of college and X years of teaching would age a person, wouldn’t you?”

gailcalled's avatar

How about simply telling the parent your age (I’m 14) and then moving on w. “as I was saying about junior’s ADHD or—————- fill in blank…” It seems unlikely that any school would hire an underaged teacher, but parents are notorious nervous nellies, as Hossman says. Rudeness and sarcasm get you nowhere in a classroom and as all have noted, can backfire since you are always under scrutiny.

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

I think Hossman’s answer was perfect, it answers the question enough for worried parents to be put at ease and for you not to have to actually tell them your age.

nomtastic's avatar

humor (not sarcasm) is definitely the way to go here. this is definitely a situation in which everyone should be able to save face.

@hossman: just b/c parents are taxpayers and are indirectly funding your salary doesn’t give them the right to ask rude questions. shouldn’t they just be teaching their little darlings to respect their teachers?

hearkat's avatar

I too get undermined for looking much younger than my age, especially because I work primarily with the elderly. So I typically reply that I look young for may age, or I will say “I got my Master’s 15 years ago” so I am verifying both my education and experience without divulging my age. After all, I could have been a child prodigy a la Doogie Howser and gotten my Master’s at 12… they don’t need to know that.

hossman's avatar

@nomtastic: No, being a taxpayer does not give them the right to ask rude questions, and they should be teaching their children to respect their teachers. But being a taxpayer DOES give them the right to not be treated rudely in response, and the TEACHERS, regardless of the parents’ conduct, should be teaching THEIR little darlings to respect their parents and other adults, even if their parents do not do the same. Hey, lots of my divorce clients were rude ba^&^$&#m, but the two facts they were paying my fees and I was a professional meant that up to a point, I was not rude in return. The remarks described here don’t seem to be intentionally rude, but rather inadvertent and heedless. My 3 1/2 year old has Down Syndrome, as a result he is about the size and apparent age of 18 months. When people ask how old he is and I say “3 1/2,” we frequently get remarks that, if the person thought about them for a moment, they would realize are extremely hurtful, but I do not respond rudely, as the remarks were heedless, not intended to cause pain. Generally, my cheerful response “Yes, he is VERY small because he has Down Syndrome, but that means we get to keep him at this lovely chewy stage for longer. He’s very nibbley and I will miss it when he is too big for that” completely disarms them.

Poser's avatar

Say, “If Mary can give birth to the Messiah at 13, I think I can teach your kid at 17.” But, you know, say it cheerfully.

hossman's avatar

And again, Poser, while I find your comment amusing (and not really offensive this time, although I’m sure some Christians would differ), if said in JUST THE RIGHT WAY, your response would work, and I thus partially agree with you.

But I think your proposed response has a high probability of being misconstrued, so I don’t think it’s good advice. A variant of your proposal that might be less likely to be found offensive might be: “Mozart composed his first symphony at age _____, so I don’t think I can compare for precociousness.” Although this comment does not serve the dual purpose of informing them they are incorrect about her age.

NVOldGuy's avatar

How old are you? What’s your first name? Do you have kids? How dare you not answer these parents. These parents pay your salary and they need to know these things. You are their link to the child and a 6th grader has a right to know. Anything you say will be rude, you can count on it. My answer, I am old enough to finish college.

lovelylady's avatar

u should say “if im teaching im old enough to teach”

josie's avatar

Why not just give your age and get it over with? It’s not like it’s a national secret.

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