Special Report
School & District Management

10 Buzzwords Educators Never Want to Hear Again

By Hayley Hardison — September 26, 2022 5 min read
silhouettes of people with colorful thinking and speech boxes full or buzzwords like Rigor, Kiddos, Self-Care, Grit, Learning Loss, Pivot, Fidelity, and Unpack
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We asked educators on social media to share their least favorite education “buzzword” and why it grinds their gears.

Hundreds of them weighed in across multiple posts, and from “differentiation” to “self-care,” there’s a lot to unpack—err, analyze.

Here are the most popular words or phrases that educators are sick of hearing—and why. (Keep scrolling to see even more terms our audience found off-putting, visualized in a word cloud.)

1. Rigor

“Rigor. Being told that something doesn’t appear rigorous or intellectually challenging when they know nothing (or next to nothing) about that child or group of children. Then having to explain how and why it is. Or having to explain that the activity is a step and that we’re moving toward a certain goal. I work with 5 and 6 year olds—they are just beginning to understand that there IS a thought process.”

Corina CC

"[Rigor] implies that having fun while learning is not raising the bar … or that slowing down when kids don’t get it is somehow failing. To me, true ‘rigor’ is the ability to push each student just a tidge past their comfort zone so that they still can be encouraged that they can indeed succeed.”

Tristen Bonacci

“Rigor. The actual definition connotes nothing but unpleasantness. And its implementation often translates into more work with no consideration of quality, relevance, or importance.”


“Rigor. So vague. Also makes me think of rigor mortis. Stiffening up instead of joyful learning.”


“Rigor for 1000000, Alex. Admin likes to use this to mean challenging, but in reality they have no concrete metrics for determining if a teacher has met the mark.”


2. Fidelity

“Fidelity. Definition: Follow this script, in the prescribed amount of time, whether or not it’s too fast or slow, or even if it sucks. If you follow it with FIDELITY, all our challenges in education will disappear. Poof!”

Jenifer Pastore

"[W]hen administrators use the word ‘fidelity,’ they are saying they don’t trust teachers to think for themselves and make appropriate decisions. ... Requiring teachers to follow ultra-specific guidelines and ‘robotic’ actions in order to use a program or curriculum is a CYA move. It keeps lousy teachers from totally blowing it and prevents disasters, but it crushes the great teachers and prevents them from doing their magic.”


“Fidelity: Copy and reproduce regardless of applying professional knowledge.”


"[F]idelity. [Because] there is NO black and white in teaching children.”

Michelle Ruhe

3. Pivot

“Pivot - After hearing it for two straight years, we knew what we needed to do in order to provide for our students during a pandemic. We didn’t need a new buzzword, we are adults who can think on our feet already, we do it 1000s of times a day as it is.”


“Pivot: Throw out what you are doing because we say so, regardless of what you think.”


“Pivot - cause I’ve never seen an admin do it.”

John Petito

4. Self-care

“Self-care, it implies teacher burnout is the result of something they are doing wrong as individuals and not a systematic problem.”

Dawn Cooley

“‘Self-care.’ As in ‘please do this, that, and the other thing. And remember today’s after-school staff meeting and grades being due tomorrow by 8 a.m. Oh, and don’t forget to be sure to practice ‘self-care’.’”

Chuck McWilliams

"[Self-care] demands teachers maintain a healthy balance in their lives without addressing pay/added responsibilities/poor conditions & blames them for struggling.”


5. Grit

“Grit. Most of the children schools emphasize grit for are already ‘gritty.’ Already resilient. Already handling situations and circumstances most of their educators have never encountered.”

Sherell A. McArthur

“Grit ... why should students have to persevere in educational environments? They should just be able to flourish and be great in environments that love and appreciate them for who they are and will be in the future.”


“Grit. It is awesome our kids have to overcome barriers? Really?”

Sarah Scarff Baumgartner

"[Grit] assumes kids aren’t dealing with harsh realities outside school so should suffer in the classroom.”


6. Unpack

“‘Unpack’ It sounds so stupid—just use the word ‘analyze’.”

Tammy Evans Hughes

“Unpack. Unpack the curriculum, unpack the standards, unpack the resources ... SO annoying. I don’t see any luggage here.”

Stacy Grover

“Unpack - a lesson should not be so complicated that it needs unpacking.”

Kate Ingalls

“Unpack - who is actually responsible for the unpacking?”


7. Learning loss

“‘Learning loss’ because it ignores the trauma and stress kids have experienced in order to quickly cram information into kids’ heads instead of meeting kids where they are and moving them forward.”

Christy Evans

“‘Rigor’ used to be my most hated word ... But now a new phrase has unseated the champ: ‘learning loss’. It demeans the work students, families, and staff did during the pandemic.”

Elizabeth Kerridge

“‘Learning loss’ because it’s a loss compared to what? According to what, and according to whom?”

Alexander Darracott

8. Differentiation

"💯 differentiation. It’s another way of saying ‘give more work to the advanced and mark out two of the four multiple choice on the test for everyone else.’”

Tim Gray

“‘Differentiation.’ It’s been misused to increase class sizes and place more and more and more responsibilities on classroom teachers and expect more and more results with the same amount of limited resources.”


“Differentiation - I always hated that word, because when you have 32 students and one teacher, it’s an impossible burden put on teachers to be everything to everyone, and teacher training does not adequately support differentiation.”

Miriam Arvinger

9. Kiddos

“Kiddos - usually only said by those who do not work with them on a daily basis (admin, coaches, etc.).”

Marcy Welch

“When adults call high school kids kiddos. Like nails on a chalk board. To me, it means they don’t hold students accountable because they are just kiddos.”

Josh Adams

10. Accountability

“Accountability—not parents or politicians. Who [is] punished? Overworked educators and students.”

Cathy Stockton

“Accountability (or ‘holding folks accountable’) implies that educators don’t do the best they can unless an administrative boogeyman is chasing them toward success. Where else in the universe does that make sense to anyone?”

Farhan Shah

“Accountability. Accountability is a one-way street. Those who make the state accountability laws and those who make the specific accountability formulas do not have the same public accountability.”


Want more?

Here are even more of the terms educators told us they could do without, visualized in a word cloud:

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A version of this article appeared in the October 05, 2022 edition of Education Week as 10 Buzzwords Educators Never Want to Hear Again


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