On Student Behavior

Alan Borsuk:

I’ll focus here on responses from current or retired teachers. All but one agreed that conduct in school had declined. (The one said, in short, that kids hadn’t changed much and there are still a lot of great students in schools.) Many didn’t want to be named, and I’ll extend that to all here.

One teacher wrote, “The easy answer is bad parenting. And that’s part of it, I believe, but certainly not the only thing.”

“To be honest, a lot of my students with severe behavior difficulties have parents that are incarcerated, or absent, or out drinking until all hours of the night…. But some of them are from two-parent, dedicated families.

“In my opinion, I think parents often indulge their children — to be their pals, to make them the center of the universe, to just give in because they’re too exhausted or unknowing to say no or have family time, or whatever.”

A retired teacher and administrator wrote, “When I became an administrator, it was clearly understood that if a student used inappropriate language toward a peer, teacher or staff member, there would be consequences, perhaps a detention or in extreme cases a suspension. By the time I retired, this type of behavior was seen as the student merely expressing his/her feelings in a vivid and colorful manner.”

A recently retired high school teacher recounted in detail how the misbehavior of a single student — often one who had been passed along to higher grades without being on grade level — could get much of a class period off track for learning and school administrators weren’t adequately helpful in responding.