What phrase, expression, or even well-known literary character signifies a 'bad/poor/incompetent/incapable teacher', that is, someone who is not good at teaching. I would like to describe a teacher in the same way that quack describes a doctor.

Unfortunately 'incompetent' and 'incapable' are not very funny or witty, or insightful, or enlightening (nor are those words nouns), and I'd like my word to be rather less prosaic if possible.

For example:

Mark Carlson is a ______ , he cannot teach a thing.

  • 1
    You must include a sample sentence demonstrating how the word would be used.
    – Centaurus
    Dec 24, 2016 at 21:40
  • Don't these words work for you? incompetent as both noun and adjective, incapable(adj), botcher: someone who is not competent to take effective action.
    – haha
    Dec 24, 2016 at 22:28
  • Please have a look at the checklist on single-word requests in order that this question might be made less open-ended.
    – Andrew Leach
    Dec 24, 2016 at 22:31
  • Thank you, well I'm looking for as many words and ideas as possible, the only problems with 'incompetent' and 'incapable' is that they are not very funny or witty, or insightful, or enlightening.
    – vafylec
    Dec 24, 2016 at 22:32
  • so how about self-styled teacher?
    – haha
    Dec 24, 2016 at 22:33

5 Answers 5


I would suggest amateur.

A person unskilled in or having only a superficial knowledge of a subject or activity. (TFT)

A person who is contemptibly inept at a particular activity. (ODO)

That bunch of stumbling amateurs.

This word fits into your sentence:

Mark Carlson is an amateur, he cannot teach a thing.


Considering that you’re looking for a rather informal term, you could use:

Mr. Lousy–pants

Although I’ve not been able to find a formal definition or description using Google, however, I am sure that I have heard the term used to describe a person as utterly incompetent in whichever field they operate or whatever they do. You could consider it an antonym of Mr. Samrty–pants, which is defined as a Mr. Know–all.


You could turn it around, provide the listener with the name of an iconic teacher, and say that the ‘incompetent’ teacher is nothing like him/them.

Mark Carlson is anything but a Mr Chips, he cannot teach a thing.

Goodbye, Mr Chips is the title of a 1960s movie based on a novella written in 1933

The novella tells the story of a beloved schoolteacher, Mr Chipping, and his long tenure at Brookfield School, a fictional minor British boys' public boarding school located in the fictional village of Brookfield, in the Fenlands. Mr Chips, as the boys call him, is conventional in his beliefs, and exercises firm discipline in the classroom.

For a more contemporary feel, what about using the name of John Keating the inspiring English teacher in the highly acclaimed movie Dead Poets Society

  • “On the first day of classes, they are surprised by the unorthodox teaching methods of new English teacher John Keating, a Welton alumnus who encourages his students to "make your lives extraordinary", a sentiment he summarizes with the Latin expression carpe diem.”

He's anything but a Socrates

Could also work, if you're looking for something more high brow.


I'm sure there are a host of nouns and adjectives to accomplish this feat. I harken 'Dilettante' or pejoratively 'rote teacher'.

a person who takes up an art, activity, or subject merely for amusement, especially in a desultory or superficial way; dabbler. "dilettante". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 25 Dec. 2016. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/dilettante>.

Mark Carlson is a Dilettante , he cannot teach a thing.

Mark Carlson is a rote teacher , he is ineffective at responding to the differing learning methods of his pupils.

perhaps specious -- apparently good or right though lacking real merit; superficially pleasing or plausible: "specious". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 25 Dec. 2016. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/specious>.

Mark Carlson is Specious , he cannot teach a thing

or sophist

any of a class of professional teachers in ancient Greece who gave instruction in various fields, as in general culture, rhetoric, politics, or disputation. a person belonging to this class at a later period who, while professing to teach skill in reasoning, concerned himself with ingenuity and specious effectiveness rather than soundness of argument. "sophists". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 25 Dec. 2016. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/sophists>.

Mark Carlson is a Sophist , he cannot teach a thing.


The word 'pedagogue' can be used in this way; originally meansing a practitioner of teaching, it has acquired the meaning 'a particularly dull or formal teacher'. This implies laying down the law, not engaging the audience's minds or imagination, going through the motions without really connecting with people.

Mark Carlson is the worst of pedagogues, he cannot teach a thing.

His teaching was pedagogical.

But the trouble is that there are other ways of being a poor teacher, eg jumping about all over the place so that everything becomes confusing. I find it curious that we don't have a word for this - it's a pretty important concept! Interestingly I heard an anthropologist say recently that the one thing humankind does that no other animal does is teach. There are others that use tools, but no other animal that sets out to teach.

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