Monday, November 21, 2011

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Today was rather discouraging on the teaching front.  I don't want to get into details - but I just have to say that even many normally well-behaved kids were not showing their best side today, and the ones who normally have issues were in rare form.  My generation was no paragon of virtue, but I really don't remember THIS level of disrespect toward teachers and school staff from large numbers of students in my schools.  We may have had a handful of kids out of every hundred who were truly hardened and difficult for teachers to deal with, but the ratio seems to be much higher now, more like 12-15 out of every hundred who are incorrigibly rude and habitual troublemakers.  And those students make it VERY difficult for everyone around them to do their jobs, whether that's to teach or to learn.

This has nothing to do with students having disabilities of any kind.  It's a respect issue for all kids, pure and simple.  Many kids apparently aren't learning respect at home, and that dynamic is carrying through into the schools.  It doesn't help that public school teachers and staff largely have their hands tied as far as discipline goes.  Rewards and incentives (and withholding them) only work for students who care about those perks.  Detention and suspension only work up to a point.  The really difficult students don't have any sense of shame (and only a hazy grasp of right and wrong).

What disturbs me is the number of students who don't care if they accomplish anything is school, who are hardened to consequences and have no desire to allow any authority figure to have any positive influence over them.  They know they don't have to do what the teachers ask, and they know that no teacher can make them obey.  I had two students walk right out of the class on me today because they didn't want to do the work.  My only recourse?  To call the office and tell them that these two students had left without permission and were wandering the school, and write them up for a detention, which they would most likely skip anyhow.  They didn't care.

I don't have any brilliant suggestions to deal with this situation.  I'm honestly at a loss what to do with the hardest, most disruptive, most disrespectful students.  All I can say is, regular public school is NOT the place for them.  They need a much more restrictive, regimented placement for education than a regular classroom.

But, I'm also dismayed at how many "average" students and "decent" kids don't seem to have a fundamental grasp of RESPECT toward teachers, authority figures, and adults in general.  Simple things, like not talking while a teacher is talking, or staying quiet when asked to do so during announcements, seem to be foreign concepts to the majority of the kids.  Still, most of these kids are amenable to direction from teachers, even if we have to raise our voices occasionally to make the point.  There's hope.  But I'm still discouraged that they even NEED to be reminded of such basic rules of social behavior.

So now I sound and feel like an old fogey.  "Kids these days. . . ."  "When I was a kid. . . ."  "I remember when. . . ."  But I can't seem to help it.  It's really bothering me that things seem to be so much worse than they were so many years ago when I was in school.  And it was no picnic then in the '70s and '80s.  Days like today make me worry about the future of America.  These students are our future voters, leaders, parents, teachers, workers.  And the next generation after them?  Who knows.

It hasn't been an encouraging day on the teaching front.  Hopefully tomorrow will be better.  I guess that's why I and others teach:  we still hope to influence the kids who will let themselves be influenced for good.

Pray for us - we need it.  So do the kids.