Using Hyperboles is the Worst

A school principal has many responsibilities: budget, staffing, professional development, behavior management, and waving to parents at carpool to name a few. However, the one area that comes across my desk the most, or maybe just occupies the most of my time and mental/emotional capacity, is listening to, unpacking, and solving teacher problems.

With a myriad of daily tasks, the ability to triage as a principal is essential. The art of successful triaging is knowing the severity, seriousness, impactfulness, and urgency of each issue. This is rendered impossible with the overuse and misuse of hyperboles.

Hyperboles are meant to emphasize or drawn attention to situations or statements through the use of exaggeration. They are not meant to be taken literally.

Hyperbolic Educator Vomit

  • “His behavior is the worst I’ve ever seen”
  • “I’ve been teaching for 20 years and this is the lowest performing groups of students”
  • “All my parents are completely disinterested”
  • “I’m doing more professional development now than when I was in college”
  • “I spend 4 hours every night at home grading papers”

As a solution minded practitioner, these statements immobilize me because they are so grandiose that there is no entry point to begin working through them. And, because they get thrown out like 3 day old avocados (they go bad so quickly!), I don’t know how to prioritize them accordingly or determine their validity.

Your problems do not jump to the front of my to do list simply because you use the words “worst”, “history”, “ever”, or “never”. In fact, it does the opposite. You become a whole page highlighter. The whole page is neon yellow, so nothing stands out. Every problem is the worst ever, so nothing is urgent.

If you are looking to get support for your classroom concerns (or for whatever your work troubles are, as this applies to any occupation) use specific honest language when sharing information. This allows for constructive conversation and the potential for solution creations.

There is a frequently misinterpreted comment in There’s Something About Mary.

What people hear Dom “Woogie” Woganowski say is “Each day is better than the last” meaning his life is always getting better. But, he really says, “Each day is better than the next” meaning his life is perpetually getting worse.

When teachers repeatedly make negative hyperbolic statements I think of Dom. Every day can’t be worse, every student can’t be more challenging, and every year can’t be more taxing. And if it is, maybe it’s time to try something new, because as we all know, education is going to hell in a handbasket.

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