Wednesday, November 09, 2011



We've spent a lot of time lately, as a staff, talking formally and informally, about insubordination. By and large, we are in agreement that it doesn't matter if we are talking about hats in school, computer usage, or simple directions, students have decided they are in charge and the rules may or may not apply to them.


I'm not sure how this change occurred, or even exactly when... But I see a pervasive digression in simple compliance. Maybe it is something each generation of educators feels/perceives? Does it actually exist? I'm not sure. I do know when I was in school, I would have never dared to speak to a teacher the way these students consistently talk to adults. I would never have dared challenge their authority when asked a simple directive.


But now, students have the audacity to refuse to comply, think nothing of saying, "Don't talk to me" to a teacher, or walking out of class or the building when things are not going their way.


Do we, as the adults in charge, hold part of the blame? I think so. We've become more lax with our own adherence to rules as well. Teachers show up late, don't have their grades done on time, don't take attendance regularly, skip meetings, etc.... We've backed down from our stern exteriors my teachers had, the unbending, black and white rule enforced I was taught by, trying to make school more 'student centered', make rules more 'student driven'. Have we gone too far down that road?


We can talk all we want about core curriculum and increasing accountability but until we change the climate in our schools, none of that will matter.

5 comments:

Isaac said...

I feel the same way. I never would have dared talk back to my teachers. Of course, if I had, and Mt parents caught wind of it, I would have been made to seriously regret it. I feel like that takes a huge portion of my energy, trying to get my sixth graders to do what they're supposed to. It doesn't help things that I have little in the way of recourse a lot of the times. Who knows how our culture well swing next...

So I just rambled a lot, so short version: I hear ya.

cossondra said...

Thanks Isaac. It is reassuring/scary... Knowing it is happening in other schools.

You're right about parental support. My folks would have killed me if I'd have gotten in trouble at school but now.... The kids are often in charge at home which carries over to their attitude at school.

LeeAnn said...

I have mixed feelings about your post. I understand where you are coming from in terms of wanting students to be respectful...not talking back, etc. But your language makes me wonder what might be the values revealed by your staff in thinking about "insubordination" and "compliance." When I think of the students in my building who are considered the "problem students" I often wonder how their attitude and educational experience would be different if they had more of a voice in the every day. Perhaps they act out because it is the only power they have? Might we find ways to make them partners in the educational experience, so that school is something we do WITH them and not TO them? How might we make it relevant to all our students so that they are motivated to learn, achieve, and succeed?

I encourage my own daughters to question some of what they are asked to do in school because, quite frankly, some of it doesn't make sense. This questioning should definitely be done respectfully. But I don't want my kids to learn in a school, and I don't want to teach in a school where compliance is the goal.

cossondra said...

I understand your points LeeAnn. But I am not talking about simply teaching students 'compliance' for the sake of compliance. I am talking about the pervasive attitude among a growing number of students that the basic rules of the school society do not apply to them. The kid who has to be asked 10 times a day, by 10 different teachers, to remove his hat. The student who refuses to put away the phone/stop texting during teaching/learning time. The student who tells the teachers to 'don't talk to me, you can't tell me what to do".

It seems the numbers of these students in on a marked increase, as well as the number of students being sent to lock up for similar attitudes/behaviors outside of school. If we cannot help them learn to be a part of society as a whole, learn to conform to certain standards of behavior, they are not going to make it as adults.

I agree that we want to also encourage students to speak for themselves, learn to appropriate ways to challenge what they deem as unfair, but all in ways suitable to the situation.

There is a fine line between those two and I appreciate you pointing that out.

AL said...

I'm a first year teacher- so naturally, classroom management is a major problem. I teach 8th grade and I'm seeing the same things you're talking about. It isn't just me either. One of my students called the principal his "dog" last week! Way too casual for speaking to the principal. Older teachers too keep saying it just keeps getting worse. I do wonder though, does it actually get worse every year as so many teachers would claim? Either way, they're not learning much math when they don't care to put away their cell phones and stay awake, paying attention during class..

I'm with Isaac. Rambling on, but I'm with ya. I hear ya.