Do you ever sit back and wonder how today’s teens are going to make it through life? They all want the easy way, all the answers with none of the work. They want it their way or no way. I’ve been listening to teenagers since I turned 13 (nearly 30 years ago) and it just seems to get worse. I know every generation blames the one before and weeps for the future ones but from speaking with many of my colleagues all over the country, we are all having the same experiences.
I belong to a page on Facebook with teachers from all over the world who teach the same subject I do and this post came up yesterday. You could almost read the tears and frustrations of these very professional people about what happened to them. This one post almost negated the positive posts that usually occur daily. Yes, I know, misery loves company and all that, but this post felt different.
One teacher from Iowa wrote “that’s how I felt yesterday I wanted to cry not for sadness but cry because I was so frustrated with the attitude and disrespect.”
Another from Georgia wrote, “It is scary to see their lack of work ethic and laziness. I’ve had some very trying days this year too.”
The one though that best described all of our days was this one from a teacher in New York. She wrote, “Is it just me or do too many students seem not to care; do their own work; and treat teachers with terrible disrespect!? I don’t want to be negative but, today was such a trying day. I put so much time and effort into my lessons only for some students to stomp all over it.”
So why is this generation so different than the last? Why do they always look for the easy way out? Is it the blame of the parents? Of society? Of technology? A combination? This is something that can’t be easily answered. I have noticed that since technology and phones have become more prevalent, I have had more discipline issues. Students have an online persona that isn’t who they really are but that online persona has become them. They feel if they act a certain way online, that is how they have to act in person because they have to keep up the appearances. For example, I have a student who can be the nicest and sweetest kid. I’ve met the student’s mom and know that she is a good kid for her. Yet, in class she’s loud, brash, obnoxious, talks about fighting, and generally can be a “shit stirrer” in the worst way. I also know she is this way online because we have developed a trusting relationship where she will confide in me and show me if something is going on. Why does this online persona have to be out all the time? Why does she even have this online persona? Why can’t she be confident enough in herself to just be who she is. I guess that is the million dollar question.
As for my day yesterday, 4 out of my 5 classes were awesome. Sure, some issues here and there but no day in a classroom is ever perfect. That other class though, WHOOOO MAN! It’s a class that is immediately after the freshman lunch hour. The majority of the class are freshman students. There are some very strong personalities in there and yesterday it all came to a head. I was giving new vocabulary and practicing it with the class. Three girls in the back of the room were holding a very loud and lengthy conversation about who knows what. I asked them very nicely to stop talking and to pay attention. I asked again. I asked a 3rd time. At that point I stopped the class and took a assessment about what was going on. Of the 14 kids who were in class, only 3 were paying attention. Beside my 3 girls talking, I had 3 boys goofing around, two kids sleeping, one on his phone, and two girls who were half paying attention to me and half to their phones hidden in backpacks. I just about lost it. It really was not my best teaching ever, actually close to my worst. I knew I didn’t have a strong lesson plan for this activity but I didn’t realize how weak it really was. I again asked the entire class to put away phones and to focus on the vocabulary and to stop talking. Apparently my 3 girls took offense to me telling them a 4th time to stop talking and they proceeded to become angry she-beasts. Mouthing off, getting louder, pointing out what everyone else was or wasn’t doing, how dare you call me out, making snide jokes and laughing at me, etc…. I finally told them, we have 5 weeks left of this school year. You can tolerate me and my rules for 5 weeks or you can drop to a study hall and see me again next year to enjoy the same rules and lessons again. I then said, “I am done correcting bad behaviors that you should have learned were unacceptable in a classroom back in kindergarten, If you continue after this, I will be forced to write a referral for you each day that you choose to break the rules”. I then went back to teaching and it was more productive for the rest of the class except the 3 girls just kept talking. I wrote referrals for them and put it out of my mind for the day. The stress isn’t worth it.
This whole thing got me to thinking. What would have happened in my days of high school learning if this happened in a classroom. Then I realized, it never would have. We were taught from day one by our parents how to respect teachers and adults. We were taught to question authority but in a productive and polite way. We learned that the teacher had the ultimate authority in the classroom and they were to be listened to. Now, it’s opposite. Parents tell their kids, “You don’t have to listen, you do what you have to do.” and “I don’t care what the teacher just said, you tell me what happened?” What happened to standing up for the teacher? The person with multiple degrees and years of experience? Sure, teachers do make mistakes but if I tell you your kid is doing something wrong in class, I would hope that you would believe me.
This makes me think of this cartoon:
Why is it always the teacher’s fault? The students and the parents blame us for allowing phones, for allowing them to talk, except that we don’t. We clearly have stated our expectations, we have consistent follow up, constant reminders, but we are still met with more phones, more talking, more disrespect. As I was addressing the class yesterday, I asked one of the girls who was the most rude, “would you talk to a judge, a police officer, or your parents like this? Would you question how they do their job?”. She looked me dead in the eye and said, “I did and I would, I don’t care who you are, I will tell you what I feel and do what I want.” I now see where some of the problem lies. No one has ever said “no, don’t do that” to this child. No one has ever corrected her behaviors and just let it go and brushed it off. The problem is that she feels she is the ultimate authority in her world and she can do what and how she likes without consequences.
There in lies the problem. I listen to my students talk to each other and they have no filter and they feel they can do the same with adults and so they do. I had one student before homeroom today talking about how she’s “gonna beat her bitch ass”. I had other yesterday say, “I’ll just make my mom pay for it” in regards to another app he wanted on his phone. Another girl came into class today swearing up a storm and yelling about how “some stupid ass hoe in this class narked me out to the principal and when I figure out who, I am going down”. No regard for anyone. It’s all about what they want.
Today, as two of the three girls from yesterday came into class, one asked me “Why did you get my friend in trouble?” Not, “Gee, I’m sorry for being rude yesterday and I won’t do it again” but why did YOU do this to her. Like I was the one in the wrong. I then informed them that their referral hadn’t been dealt with and they need to go see the principal just like their friend did. As they were walking out of class, one of them told me “You are irritating as FUCK”. UM WAIT WHAT LITTLE GIRL? You are 14 years old, what makes you think it’s ok to talk to a teacher that way; someone who is doing her job? You guessed it, she got a second referral. I am sure that will be my fault also. If my daughter (or son) said this to anyone someday, especially a teacher, I am pretty sure that grounding and punishment at home would be my first call and they would be apologizing left, right, and upside down to the person that they said it to.
I know from my years of experience that this isn’t an isolated incident. When you give your young teen (or any child for that matter) anything they want and never say no, you are helping to create the “ME ME ME” world we live in. When you 14 year old has a brand new iPhone 6S Plus, designer clothes and bags, and can’t be bothered to do his/ her work, and feels he/ she can mouth off to any adult in their way, I know it’s the parent that causes this to happen. It’s time to step up as a parent and be exactly that, a parent. Not a friend. You can be your child’s friend when they are an adult.
What is frustrating is that when you read research on how to combat this, so much of it states “Teens are acting out due to stress and anxiety” or “It’s seen as cool for teenagers to mimic what they see their friends do and act with an air of aloofness and disregard”. Please tell me how that is different that any other generation. Teens have been stressed and aloof for 100’s of years. This is something beyond that. It is a disregard for anyone but themselves, non-compliance, rudeness, and lack of discipline from parents. The same attitudes they have toward their parents are now being seen against teachers and principals. (Quabazard, 2010)
So, as a teacher, I will continue to do my job. I will continue to correct, to urge, to inspire. I will not allow students to bring me down. However, something needs to change. Somehow, someway, there needs to be a dramatic shift on how parents deal with their children and how teachers are allowed to handle when things happen in their classrooms without fear of retaliation or disbelief. We need support from parents and principals to make our schools better. I know it has been said before, but it all starts at home.