Teaching Kindness

9.30.2010

This generation of students worries me.  For the past ten years, I've been teaching first-year college students, and as each year goes by, I receive less and less respect from them.  Still, this year by far has been the worst--a total breakdown of respect and lack for authority.

I used to shrug this behavior off, but now that I am a mom, I worry.  I worry about this new "culture" that is arising and how my son will be affected by it.  For those of you who are still uncertain as to what I am talking about, let me explain.

When I went to college (in the 90's), we treated our professors with respect.  We didn't dare speak or talk over them while they were talking, we never talked back, and we never, ever, ever, dared to cross the line and suggest that an assignment was STUPID.  They had authority, and we wanted to do our best by paying attention and learning as much as we could (even if we didn't like every single assignment.)  Sometimes we'd even give our professors gifts at the end of the class to show our appreciation for their help.

Today I deal with a new mindset.  Most (not all) students need constant reminding that they are not to talk, text, listen to music, or play with their cell phones, i-pods, or laptops in class.  Every day, I must constantly remind them that their education comes first and that they are paying top dollar for tuition.  When students miss information because they are too busy gabbing with their friends, they interrupt me and demand that I repeat it for them.

This is just the beginning.  Now students feel they can voice their opinions at any time that they want as well.  If they don't like an assignment, they very forwardly ask, "Why do we have to do this?" and sometimes they make remarks out loud in class like "This assignment's stupid!"  or "I don't understand why we have to do this anyway.  I'm not doing it!"

In some cases, their reactions remind me of my two year old.  However, instead of taking an all out tantrum because they don't have the vocabulary to express themselves, they use their words to attack, be cutting, and show disrespect.

In the long run, their grades resemble the effort they chose or didn't choose to put forth in this class, but there is something about this generation that really, truly concerns me.  That one thing is their lack of kindness

A few weeks ago, I asked a student if he wouldn't mind standing up on his chair to turn on the video projector, which was mounted to the ceiling.   He was sitting beneath it, and I couldn't stand up on the chair because I was wearing a dress.  He very pointedly answered, "No.  You do it!"

I looked around the room and asked if someone would volunteer, but everyone remained silent.  This mean student had set the bar as to how everyone else was going to react.  If he wasn't going to help me, then they certainly weren't going to do it either. 

Embarrassed by the situation (and quite honestly shocked), I offered extra credit.  Imagine.  I offered extra credit just so that someone could show some kindness and compassion!  At this point, I finally had a few volunteers, but did I really have to go to this extreme?  Do students today feel like they are not going to help someone else unless they know they'll get something out of it?

I'm disturbed.  I have more to tell (perhaps in another post), but I am worried that the children of Generation Y, for some reason, have not learned about kindness.  They haven't grown out of the two year old mentality that says, "it's all about me."  It makes me sad, and I wonder if this is just a stage that they will grow out of or if this is a larger implication that we may be heading for a "dog eat dog world."

If I can choose one major character trait for my little boy to take with him throughout life, it would be kindness--to treat others the way we wish to be treated, to show love, empathy, and compassion for our fellow neighbors.  I don't expect all my students to pay attention in class.  I don't expect that they like every assignment.  I don't expect that they thank me even though I try to be a sincere, kind, and compassionate mentor for them.  I do, hope, however, that they reconsider their current etiquette and treatment of others.  After all,  love and kindness are truly what makes the world go around.  Without it, does life really have meaning?

19 comments:

  1. Oh, this really hits a nerve with me, too. I work with elementary students and see it at that level already, so I know it must be bad by the time they get to you. I honestly think that many of the kids in this generation have been catered to, asked their opinions on everything, and elevated to the level of peer (rather than child) in their homes. As a parent,I do value what my children have to say, but I am still the parent and they still need to respect me. And their elders in general. I would be furious to be in a room full of 19/20 year olds who wouldn't be respectful to the teacher.

    Wow. But you know what? I think that because you recognize this as a trait that seems to be lacking in that age group right now, as a parent you will be extra diligent in instilling that in your little guy. And that's how we eventually return kindness to the world.

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  2. You did hit the nail on the head. It's been happening for awhile. I think that as a society, we've raised kids to believe the world owes them things. They have such a strong sense of entitlement vs. actually earning their achievements. I think this mentality is born from parents who spoil their kids, soccer teams where everyone wins a trophy (can't have hurt feelings!), etc. etc. etc.

    I don't think this is something that the kids will mature out of.

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  3. I see it too. It's about me, me, me. What am I going to get out of this? I'm hoping I'm instilling good values into my children. I want them to know that the world does not revolve around them. That simple acts of kindness can go a long way.

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  4. I think it starts with us as parents of the newest generation to fix it. I think the children hitting college age now were raised in a generation of instant gratification and doing whatever it takes (including rude behavior) to get to the top. And it's really sad to me. My little brother was raised in that generation and you can tell from the way he and his friends act. He has the expectation of success, even when he hasn't put in any effort or time. So as a parent of a young child, I'm making it my goal to teach her to be a kind, generous and hard-working person.

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  5. Oh gosh, I cannot believe that situation actually happened, well let me rephrase that...I'm sad that that actually happened! My husband teaches at the local university and also deals with this on a daily basis. So many young adults now feel a sense of entitlement and are just down right disrespectful. You're so right, it does give us a bit of pause for our future and what our kids will deal with in the years to come. I can only hope that I instill in GG the proper values and respect for others.

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  6. I can't believe how rude they are to you. Its insane to me. I can't even imagine acting that way.
    Your right, you need to put your foot down and demand respect. At least you will make sure to raise your children with respect. It shows a lot about a person when they act like that to a teacher. Imagine when they have a boss, how they will treat them.

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  7. This is so so sad. I absolutely agree - kindness, empathy, consideration: all so important and all so lacking. Kids these days! No seriously, in an effort to make children feel special are parents creating "ME, ME, ME monsters?" Who raised these brats? I guess all we can do is continue to set good examples and raise our children with these values.

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  8. My mom is teacher, and we talk, often, about the lack of respect that most students have nowadays. I think so often, it is the parents who should assume the biggest responsibility in this. So often, children are given so little attention at home that when they come to school, they feel the need to "act" out. Their parents, who likely lead busy lives, do not have the time or desire, in many cases, to be a parent. This leads to teachers having to be teachers and parents, dealing with the discontents of bad parenting.
    -Jessica

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  9. Hi this is Nicole from ColiesKitchen.com. I just wanted to stop by and tell you how much I l love following your blog! Happy Follow Friday!! Have a super weekend!! www.colieskitchen.com

    ReplyDelete
  10. I am your newest follower from a Friday Blog Hop! I'd love it if you could follow back at one or all of my blogs!

    www.singleparentretreat.com
    http://singlemamachallenges.blogspot.com/
    http://motherdaughterconnection.blogspot.com/

    Thank you and have a great day!

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  11. Your blog header is really cute! :)

    I'm your newest follower from Social Parade Friday! You can find me at

    http://bethscoupondeals.blogspot.com/

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  12. A really great post! I'm all about teaching kindness. :o) I'm your newest follower. Have agreat day and weekend too!!!

    http://motherof1princessand2princes.blogspot.com

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  13. Following from Social Parade Fridays. Please stop in and do the same for me (we are working on a follow friday project to see how many followers can actually be collected in a single friday with active participation)

    Thank you for your help and your return follow:
    http://www.momtobedby8.com/2010/10/social-parade-follow-on-friday-101.html

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  14. I'll be following back now, thanks for stopping by! And I'll be sure to work extra hard on making Peanut understand the need for kindness because that behavior you described is completly unacceptable. I would be mortified if a child of mine acted in that way!

    ~Mel

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  15. Hi Annette,
    Thanks for your visit, comment and follow from Following Friday! It is sad how children behave these days, especially around adults. Kindness and respect is an exception sometimes rather than the rule! Thank you for all the hard work you do! It's not an easy job being on the front lines with teaching kids in a school setting.
    I'm glad you are thinking about homeschooling and thanks so much for your nice comments on my blog :)
    I'm following you now on GFC :)
    Have a great weekend!
    Tracy at "A Slice of Smith Life"
    http://www.asliceofsmithlife.blogspot.com

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  16. I agree. This generation of young adults are truly going down the wrong path. I feel that its the parents duties to teach respect and it seems less and less apparent. Its so sad. So sorry you have to go thru this sort of disrespect.

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  17. WOW. I can't believe that no one would help until extra credit was offered. That is INSANE to me. And these are college kids???? Unbelievable.

    P.S. I almost wrote "Kids these days!" but then I felt really old.

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  18. Wow, that is really sad. I worry about this too. Kindess should be the number one thing we teach our children and one we should vow to always show them.

    Thanks for this post...I think we need to be mindful of this daily as we teach and care for our children b/c I think teaching and showing kindness may have fallen to the wayside.

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  19. All I can say is WOW. Not even one teachers pet in the class to turn it on before you said extra credit? This reminds me so much of my little sister...hopefully we're doing something right with our kids and they don't one day do things like this!

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