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When Did Students Become So Disrespectful?

Teachers today aren't held in the same regard as they once were by children and parents.

In Fresno, California three fifth-graders, two boys and one girl, admitted to trying to kill their teacher by lacing her coffee and cupcake with rat poison. The teacher was unharmed because, at the last minute, one of the boys knocked the coffee from the teacher’s hand. The plot was uncovered when “a parent was bragging that her son saved the teacher’s life by preventing her from drinking the poisoned coffee.” This was the same boy who came up with the master plan in the first place. The students were expelled and transferred to other schools.

I know I should be shocked that 10-year-olds were trying to “off” their teacher, but I’m not. There is such a blatant, pervasive disrespect for the teaching profession that it’s not at all surprising these students treated their teacher like a rodent. The fact that the mom was proud of her son for “saving” the teacher he tried to poison really says it all. My question is, when and how did this happen?

When I was a kid, a parent would not think of trotting into an elementary school classroom and calling the teacher out for giving her child a poor grade. If you received a bad grade, your parents immediately took the teacher’s side. There was no whining about the injustice of it all, or how the teacher didn’t like you or whatever excuse kids come up with now to manipulate parents. The teacher was right; you were wrong, end of story.

Now it’s the polar opposite. Kids hear parents speak disparagingly of their teacher all the time so it is no wonder kids treat their teachers like bottom-feeders. Teachers know that if you give a kid a poor grade you better have a paper trail as long as your arm because you are most likely going to have to prove the student deserved it. Maybe it’s a cultural issue; teachers are under- valued by society so they are treated disrespectfully. Maybe parents are exerting power they didn’t have when they were in school. Whatever the reason, it is astonishing how parents take at face value whatever their child says happened at school. When I was student teaching, the teacher had a poster in the classroom that said, “If you don’t believe everything your child says about what happens at school, I won’t believe everything your child says about what happens at home.” This phrase should be printed on T-shirts and teachers should wear them to parent-teacher conferences.

Oh, of course there are teachers who are questioned for good reasons and parents who are respectful and appreciative of their kids’ teachers. But, when you have elementary school children nearly poison their teacher and a parent boasts about her child because he didn’t go through with his plan, you have to admit the tide has turned, so don’t be surprised when the best and brightest teachers run for the hills.

Brian L. March 06, 2012 at 10:37 PM
I think we agree to an extent. All I differ on is the fact that you have to base it in religion. Of course the Bible, Torah...whatever text...teaches morality and values and provides a solid ground to work from. But I also feel (and I guess this just circles back to a point i stated earlier) that parents can act as those roots as well. Children look up to adults. Good role models can breed good behavior. I am not religious, but when my son grows up I will call upon techniques my parents used on me to make sure he respects his parents, his elders, his teachers and holds himself to standards I would like to see.
Pat March 08, 2012 at 07:02 PM
It's not just teachers that are not respected, it's a general attitude which is growing among all ages of our society. I have heard children screaming insults at their parents in public. I was embarrassed even to witness it as a bystander. I am often shocked just by the tone of voice/attitude with which our children address me and my husband. I would never have thought of speaking that way to my parents. I'm sure a lot of it does come from TV and examples the kids see everywhere. I agree with Jose in that parents used to be stricter with their children and did not hesitate to spank when called for. I would not go as far as using a strap, but spanking was a parent's right/duty when I was growing up. Nowadays, it has gone to such an extreme that parents seem to feel their duty is to praise their child no matter what the child does. I get so tired of parents telling their children how awesome they are every time they make a move. No wonder the kids develop an attitude of entitlement and a distorted view of their own position in the larger social scheme of things.
Jose March 08, 2012 at 09:08 PM
I'M SURE YOU ALL SEEN THE T.V. SHOW CALL THE NANNY ??? I CAN'T BELIEVE THE WAY THOSE KIDS ACT..THEY PUNCH THEIR PARENTS --THEY KICK THEIR PARENTS, THEY SPIT ON THEIR PARENTS FACES.....I NEVER SEEN THAT BEFORE...PARENTS ARE AFRAID TO SPANK THEM OR TAKE A BELT AFTER THEM, MAIN REASON THEY ACT THAT WAY...GIVE ME A WEEK WITH THOSE KIDS AND I GUARANTEE YOU THEY WILL BE RESPECTFUL AND DISCIPLINE...NO ABUSE, A LIGHT BELT WHIPPING---SPANKING WILL DO THE JOB..
Sully March 08, 2012 at 11:46 PM
Jose, maybe a look at some longitudinal research may enlighten you a bit. Hitting children teaches them that hitting solves problems. Why learn problem-solving skills when you can just get a belt? Parents who resort to hitting their kids never learned how to cognitively manage their own behavior or to teach youngsters how to do the same. Violence begets violence and hitting only causes resentment among those who are hit. You don't teach respect by being disrespectful.
Brian L. March 09, 2012 at 12:30 AM
You talked about the show the nanny, does she hit the kids on tv to get them to do what she wants? If she does, they don't show it. Again, if that's what works for you fine, I'm not here to tell others how they need to raise their children, but you can raise respectful children without hitting them. My generation was, i'm assuming, one of the first with many kids not hit. We're not all bad.

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