OMG. You people rock. Back in the day, when I started using the three-word phrase shtick in my back-to-school night gigs, I used to run through five or six for the parental units, just to illustrate my point about the way middle schoolers “communicate.”

A couple of days ago, we were up to 16. Thanks to you, I think we’re headed for a top twenty instead of a top ten.

1. “It’s not fair.” – Used for anything they don’t like.
2. “This is boring.” – See #1.
3. “What’s my grade?” – “I am pretending I care.”
4. “What I miss?” – See #3.
5. “I don’t care.” – “I really do care, but I don’t think I can do anything about it.”
6. “I don’t know.” – “I might know, but can’t admit it, because then I would face consequences.” Or, if that is not the case, “I don’t even know what the question was.”
7. “I SAW you.” – “I can’t believe you exist outside the classroom.”
8. “I hate ____.” (math, you, cauliflower, etc.) – See #1.
9. “S’not my fault.” – “It really is my fault.”
10. “I’ve a question.” – “I really do (or did) have a question, but it might (probably) not have anything to do with what you’re talking about.”
11. “It’s at home.” – “I didn’t do it.”
12. “Because it’s fun.” – “Because it annoys you.
13. “I’m not late.” – “I’m late.”
14. “It wasn’t me.” – “It really was me,” or “I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I have a guilty conscience…” Variations include, “It was ____,” and #9.
15. “I was absent.” – “I’m playing my (imagined) get-out-of-jail-free card.”
16. “I’m not ready.” – “I’m REALLY not ready.”

And the new additions:

17. “I lost it.” – “I wasn’t really paying attention, and didn’t really care if I hung on to it…or maybe I didn’t do it, whichever gets me in less trouble.” Very closely related to #11. It might actually be the truth sometimes, but… I doubt it. This one is one of the reasons I charge a quarter to replace “lost” handouts. They can also print them from the web site. Most likely, 90% of these “lost” papers are buried in that landfill they call a backpack. (Even lockers get cleaned out at least times a year. Backpacks? No dice. In fact, before locker checks, they just stuff everything into their backpacks, and the lockers we’re checking are virtually empty.)

18. “I don’t understand.” – “Using my brain is sooo much work,” or “I didn’t read the directions.” If those two don’t cover it, then they need to learn to be more specific in “asking” for help. “I don’t understand” doesn’t really help me help you. What don’t you understand? And don’t say, “All of it.” Even my IHAQ’s need to learn to ask questions that will actually help them understand.

19. “(S)he started it.” – “…But I am in it up to my neck.” A close cousin of #14, but I think it’s still worthy of its own slot due to the playground nature of the defense. “Does he have cooties too?”