The Uncool Teacher’s Guide To Getting Hip

21st Century teachers have a lot to contend with and choosing this profession as a career must often appear slightly crazy to the outsider, given news reports of increased bad behaviour, teenage crime and poor academic results.

And, in all honesty, if you knew that your average day would be spent deciphering the speech of hormonal adolescence in your care whilst they exhibit what appears to be an unhealthy interest in those things that are increasingly making you aware of your mortality – guns, sex (or lack of it) and anything that moves faster than 30mph – would you still have chosen teaching as a career?

It’s easy to understand why 21st Century teaching can be stressful. Much is written about how pubescent children experiencing physical and emotional changes generate an uncontrollable desire to ‘fit in’ with the crowd, but little advice is offered to teachers to help them understand their students in a modern context.

For teachers who no more understand a badonkadonk from a pair of sick kicks, this is a massive problem. If you are an ‘out-of-touch’ teacher, here are 3 essential resources that will help you get with it and begin to command respect from your pupils.

The Urban Dictionary

The Urban Dictionary is a huge online user edited database containing multiple references for all sorts of slang words and phrases in current use. Use of some entries clearly wouldn’t endear you to your employers (we’ll let you decide which these are), but many are surprising, a revelation even (and often damn right rude).

However, the next time you’re accused of having beard goggles by the students in your maths class you’ll only be a couple of clicks away from finding out if this was a complement before taking yourself off to the barbers*.

*We apologize for falling into the prejudicial trap of assuming all maths teachers have beards.

Teen Vogue

Now you’ve removed your beard and learned that your facial hair was indeed the pits, you can start understanding teenage fashion.

Teenagers today are remarkably adventurous in their clothing choices (some would say too much so) and whilst conformity exists amongst within teenage groups, to the outsider, understanding the need to wear your trouser waist somewhere down around your ankles can be quite hard. Teen Vogue will help you understand this trend (if indeed it still is or ever was one).

School or college uniform is designed to remove such confusion from the classroom, but this won’t mean your students aren’t sensitive to you moaning about ‘the horrible things kids wear today’. So, stop moaning and accept that ‘fashion’ is more important to them than anything you could possibly schedule into a lesson about Trigonometry. (Whether you like it or not.)


If you’ve never heard of Facebook, then it matters not that you are a teacher – you’re clearly many millions of light-years away from the 21st Century already.

Most people know that Facebook can be used to communicate with friends, share photos and other debatably interesting snippets of digital life. It can also be used – and this is what most people use the world’s most popular social network for – to monitor what other people are up to.

In order to stay up to date with the latest parties your students are going to, you first need to read points 1 and 2. If you don’t, they won’t accept your friend request on Facebook anyway.

For those that do accept your digital friendship (let’s face it, there will be few students that will want their teacher perusing the latest photos of them getting drunk at last weekend’s party at John’s house whilst his parents were away), you have an opportunity to understand what your students share with each other and consequently what they find interesting. Therefore, the next time you run a lesson around Algebra, you can drop in the odd comment about how cool Justin Bieber’s interview on CNN was yesterday (this might not work, depending on which year you read this advice).

Be ‘Sick’

As a teacher in the 21st Century, it’s your role to engage with your students to ensure that you get good results across your year-groups. Well, that’s the official line from your employer anyway.

From a student’s perspective however, you need to be someone they can look up to – in fact they yearn for it – and the simple fact of the matter is that unless you make a concerted effort to recognise the reality of modern teenage life, non-judgmentally, you’re unlikely to succeed.