Rude awakening

Some students test teachers' boundaries

Christina M. Currie

Are children becoming ruder? Or are adults becoming less tolerant?

Nearly 70 percent of respondents to a 2005 Associated Press-Ipsos Poll said people are ruder than they were 20 or 30 years ago. The same number of people blamed parents for not teaching their children good manners.

Among Moffat County teachers, opinions differ as to whether children’s manners are worse than a few decades ago.

“It’s increasingly difficult for families to be there,” Moffat County High School Assistant Principal Thom Schnellinger said. “We don’t have the old nuclear family anymore.”

Today’s students are faced with serious decisions, including where to live and how to get food, Schnellinger said.

The maturity those students gain from making such decisions can cause teens to resent an authority figure who treats them as if they are younger than they feel, he said.

Moffat County teachers say they’ve been cussed at and ignored.

High school health teacher Todd Trapp said a student has stomped out of his class, slamming the door so hard that it broke a window.

Although Trapp doesn’t see that kind of behavior often, he said students do test teachers’ boundaries.

“As a newer teacher, I probably see it more because students are testing to see what you’ll let them get away with,” he said.

In her 25 years as a teacher, Rose Siminoe said she’s seen a change in the level of respect students show teachers and also in their willingness to work.

“Students are more apt to have outbursts,” she said. “They have trouble controlling anger and channeling it in the right way.”

But, Siminoe said she’s not often the target of that anger.

“You have to build a relationship with students,” she said. “It’s a two-way street — you work with them, and they’ll work with you.”

Nearly 2,400 years ago, Greek philosopher Aristotle called children disruptive and disrespectful, Moffat County High School teacher Bonnie Revelle said. Students haven’t changed.

“Kids use language I don’t think is particularly appropriate,” she said. “But when I was in school, adults complained about the language we used.”

She said there are always students who are disrespectful and others who are very respectful, something that hasn’t changed with time, said Revelle, who has taught school for 18 years.

All Moffat County schools adopted the “Positive Behavior Support” system this year. The heart of the system is to model and reward positive behavior.

Teaching respect adds another layer to a school’s responsibilities, Schnellinger said. But it also is rewarding to recognize students for the good things they do, he said.

Moffat County High School Principal Jane Krogman said that students might invent a derogatory cheer to yell during a sporting event, but they’re more apt to treat the person who asks them to stop with respect. That’s a change, she said.

“Generally, there is a trend toward a lack of respect toward authority, not only in Craig but throughout our country,” Krogman said.

Students also are less likely to take responsibility for their actions, Krogman said. Students don’t consider themselves wrong if someone else did the same thing or if someone else didn’t get caught.

“Instead of looking at a correction or redirection as a learning experience, sometimes it is viewed as an opportunity to argue in the hope of avoiding any consequence,” Krogman said. “When this happens, we doom our children to a very difficult adulthood of learning hard lessons later.”

People are surprised when they learn that disruptive behavior is becoming more commonplace in higher education, educators say.

Gerald Amada is a counselor at City College of San Francisco and author of two books on college misconduct.

Amada said he thinks that society in general has become more tolerant of rude behavior and that people in authority no longer set standards for politeness.

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