What Happened to Respect for Our Teachers in the Classroom?

I grew up in the South, outside of Atlanta. I attended several public elementary schools and a public high school. We were expected to show respect to our teachers. This was a rule and not a suggestion. Progress reports were sent home weekly and included a report about our behavior in classroom.

For those of you old enough to remember, the progress reports reflected one of three letter grades. “S” was satisfactory, “N” was needs improvement and “U” was unsatisfactory. I was not exactly an “S” student. Not a surprise to many.

Translation, “S” meant you were in the good and clear of punishment, “N” meant you were in trouble but not dead and “U” meant serious violations with possibilities of being sent to boarding school. This is my interpretation, of course.

I recall many friends saying if they got a “U” that their parents threatened to send them to military school. To us, this was the equivalent of being sent to prison camp.

When I got in trouble at school, my teachers would send a note home to my folks. Oh, goody goody gum drops for me!

The thing was, the teachers made you carry the note home from school to your parents in a sealed envelope. This was like carrying your own execution papers to the executioner! Sometimes I would try opening the letter first in order to see what it said. Then, I would meticulously re-seal the envelope before I gave it to my parents.

Um, it seems my interpretation of meticulous was a bit off the mark. Every single freakin’ time I would try to re-seal the envelope, I got busted. That was always a fun few minutes with my mom starting at me like Medusa. Her eyes would shine with the bright, white light that turns you to stone and, out of the corner of my eye, I could see the small snakes slithering out of her head to eat me.

So, I hand over the “death warrant” letter from my teacher to my parents. I mentally start my last Will and Testament in my head. It was pretty short, as I was young, but someone would need to care for all my stuffed animals that would be left behind after my demise. I am pretty sure that I held my breath for over a minute, before the “little stars” from lack of oxygen force me to continue breathing.

I ran through my brain trying to think of what I did to get “the letter” sent home. Unfortunately, due to my classroom behavior, the teacher had several choices to choose from to report. I just wanted to figure out which one she picked to tell my folks!

My parents always started the conversation by asking what I did wrong. I found this to be a trick question.

Now, when I had already opened the envelope, I knew how to answer the question. However, when I had not previously opened the envelope, I felt trapped. What if I bring up the wrong incident? Then I am in trouble two fold! Oh, and not answering my mother was NOT an option.

Luckily, I thought most of my infractions were not any lack of respect for my teachers. It was usually me not paying attention and talking too much while the teacher was teaching. Surprised?

My mother did not agree with me. Here we go! As I watched the small snakes swarm around her head, she explained to me that my behavior was a lack of respect to the teacher.

I think to myself, how does this make sense? I said, think, not speak. Never stop a Southern mother when she is lecturing. If you do, the lecture lasts a lot longer and a possible butt whoopin’ will ensue. Just keep quiet, trust me on this.

I came to understand her point and realized that she was indeed correct.

These days, I see far more than talking too much in class that shows disrespect to our teachers. Unfortunately, I see it in parents as much as the students.

When I was in school, if you got in trouble, it was your fault. Now, I see parents blaming the teachers, cause’ “their kid” could not possibly be at fault, “my sweet angel face. What did that mean teacher say to you, my pudding cup.”

Pudding cup, my foot. Your little “he/she devil “is ruining the class atmosphere for everyone. You are lucky the teachers have kept your kid from getting a “smack down” by the other kids.

It is our responsibility as parents to teach our kids respect and appropriate behavior in a classroom, and everywhere else for that matter.

Teachers have all of the responsibility to educate your child in the classroom, but with extremely limited recourse to enforce discipline. This is because parents go off the deep end whenever their precious little Johnny is corrected or called out by a teacher.

Parents, let me ask you to think on a point, in all honesty. When you get a notice that your kid gets “in trouble” at school, what is your first thought? Be honest, do you think it is your kid at fault or the teacher’s fault? Thoughts that make you go, hmmmm.

Regardless of your answer, ponder this. Are your kids respectful of you at home? Do your kids show respect when they go out in public, say to a server or a cashier? Do your kids get to see you show respect to others? Such as, not being on a cell phone when checking out at a store. (This is my big pet peeve.) I know most of us are in an all fire hurry most of the time, but your kids are watching. Lastly, do YOU show respect to your kids?

Most teachers I have had and now know personally are dedicated educators. These teachers take a heartfelt approach to molding your children into happy, successful adults. Many teachers spend their own money to add to the classroom experience. There are those that sacrifice their own “off time” to help your child succeed.

That “tree hugger” school my kid attends is a testament to the power of influence each teacher has in her growth and social development. I am sure you have teachers at your kids’ school that strive for the same thing. Do not waste this resource.

Being respectful requires kids to see it in action. It may require practice. At our house, we use TV shows to watch people interact, then discuss if the interaction was respectful or not. And who said there was nothing good on TV?

Our teachers deserve respect from the kids as well as the parents. They are human beings with feelings of their own. Teachers nurture you kids and, in some cases, love them as their own.

Let’s help our kids and ourselves to return to a time where respect is earned and appreciated. As parents, that may mean we have to work on ourselves first. Then, so be it. Start there. I guarantee, if you reach out to a teacher, she will meet you halfway!

To all of the teachers at my daughter ‘s tree hugger school, I applaud you as educators. One step more, each of you has instilled in my daughter what it means to be a warrior, a friend, a confidant, and the confidence to move into adulthood. For all of this and more, I am eternally grateful.

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