The other day, I was in a grade 8 classroom, handing back test papers. One of my moodier students took his in surprise, checked his low mark, then tossed the paper back at me where it landed on the floor. I told him to pick it up and hand it to me. He gave me a challenging stare and shook his head. Then he said he couldn’t pick it up because “there are people in the way.”
Skip to another day in the same week and a different grade 8 class. A girl was checking messages on her iPhone and I told her to put it away since class was in session. She refused. Coincidentally, the principal came into the room shortly after and I reminded him to explain to the girl the policy of using iPhones in class. After he had left, the girl proceeded to say that both the principal and I “sucked” and she continued checking her messages.
That week was not unusual for children in schools showing disrespect. In fact, it is a regular pattern.
I am a supply teacher and I go into numerous schools in the city of Toronto and I am no longer shocked by the lack of manners that students display. Students, regardless of age, seem to have a sense of entitlement and think that they can get away with most things. Interestingly, this sense of entitlement crosses all socio-economic classes. It transgresses in both lower- and higher-income areas.
But then I leave the workplace and take public transit and go into shops and stores and see that adults are just as loose with manners as the students. For example, are receiving calls on one’s cell so drastically important that one ignores the cashier who is giving them change back and wishing them a pleasant day?
There are people with exquisite manners, of course, but they seem few and far between.
I could make a conclusion here based upon my observations: that adults need to model manners and that when they do not, children believe that manners are not valuable.
So I am not surprised when I hear that people do not know how to form social relationships any more. That is, outside of electronic ones.