Respect

Some days ago an incident occurred between a student and a teacher that I witnessed. The teacher was putting words into the student’s mouth, and the student was becoming understandably upset by this. When the student tried to interrupt to defend himself, the teacher cut him off, saying “excuse me, I’m speaking”. The student tried again to interrupt, saying that what the teacher was saying wasn’t true, and the teacher cut him off again, saying “excuse me, be respectful” to which the student replied that she (the teacher) was being disrespectful by putting words in his mouth. She continued to speak, and he interrupted her again. Even though she had followed him to the room that he was supposed to be in (which was already was occupied by a teacher) from a study that she was supposed to be watching, at this point she told him to go to the office. He complied, but on his way out said what all of us watching were thinking, if not in so many words; (the following is paraphrased, but is probably very close to what he actually said) “this is why I never liked you”.

I also have a deep dislike for this teacher, and teachers like her, because they treat students like children. Yes, it is true that I have left the details out regarding why the student was followed back to his room by the teacher in question, and yes, it is probably true that while the teacher was exaggerating the student’s offense by putting words in his mouth, the student did break a rule, or perhaps more than one. It is for this reason that adults would tell teens that if they wish to be treated like adults, they should act like adults. This point of view, however, is intrinsically flawed. If you wish us to treat you as adults, you too must act like adults. You were so busy teaching us to look before we leap that you forgot that with this knowledge we had gained the ability to see that like us, you are imperfect.

Do not misunderstand me. Well, you can if you like, but do not mistake my intention. I am not saying that the student was not wrong. What I am saying is that the teacher was also wrong. A small person behind a big desk is still just a small person, and nothing more. I care not about the potential punishment, unlikely though it might be, that might ensue from writing this, because I think that it’s important that adults understand that while you were telling us to grow up, you made the mistake of showing us that you are not as perfect as you would have us believe. Not all teachers and authority figures are like this. In fact, there are those which easly spring to mind that are the direct polar opposite.

What I have a problem with is that while you would expect us to accept being treated in a manner suiting our actions while simultaneously expecting us to treat you with respect, regardless of your actions. If you truly wish for us to become independent and functional members of society, I submit to you that you should set better examples than this. Many of us are below many of you only because of the limitations placed upon us by the rules in the student handbook, a document that I do not recall ever agreeing to. There was no contract that I signed or deal that I agreed to that ever in any way let you take away my rights, and as a legal adult I resent that you would believe as such. The circumstances themselves are, while inconvenient, not unbearable, but it is the principle of the matter that irritates me. If we are (and we are) forced to stand for the pledge of allegiance each morning and face the flag, should we not be entitled to the freedom which that flag represents?

I’m not saying that I necessarily want anything to fundamentally change about the student-teacher relationship and the rules and regulations surrounding the school experience, but what I am saying that what you are doing is taking our submission for granted. The moment that you assume that we’re going to let it slide is the moment that I become okay with letting your rules slide…and I’m one of the nice ones.

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One Response to “Respect”

  1. Frakkin Talos Says:

    I totally understand what you mean. When I was young, some adults seem so immature and foolish. They demanded respect just because of their age.

    As a teen, I didn’t want to be treated as an equal. I wanted to be treated like a human being. Even when I had no respect for an adult I treated them with respect. It’s how I was brought up. Except I was never offered the same courtesy. I was a kid and treated as inferior to authority.

    As an adult I now understand what that is all about. It’s about inferiority. If an adult treats a student like that they don’t understand their authority. If the teacher had allowed the student to speak and make his point, then the teacher could use her authority to correct. Instead, an abuse of authority occured and so the student did not learn a lesson, except maybe that bullies triumph.

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