Special, Special Snowflakes

We’re interrupting the regularly scheduled programming to bring you another post on education.


In my post New Classroom Rules, I bemoan some trends I’ve seen in kids in recent years: lack of work ethic, lack of ability to follow directions, a sense of entitlement and unwillingness to take responsibility for their actions. And yes, part of the post deals with the fact that kids can’t pass papers to the front of the room.

I am serious about this. Anyone who’s a teacher knows what I’m talking about. You get everyone’s attention, you state—twice—what seems like simple directions: “Please pass your paper to the person in front of you. I will get them from the front row.” You then prepare yourself for a five-minute long farce that would be funny if your job didn’t depend on achieving six objectives that class period. Most kids will pass the papers forward and get them to the front of the row in something resembling a stack. More like a “pile,” but OK. But there are always about five to seven kids that manage to fuck up the entire operation, as follows:

  • Somebody will not turn around and will have to be poked and screamed at by the person behind him.
  • Somebody will pass the paper somewhere else—say, to the left or right, completely confusing the people around her.
  • Somebody will throw the paper instead of handing it over.
  • Somebody will try to be hilarious by offering the papers to his neighbor and then snatching them away quickly, just being a general asshole and not at all funny.
  • One person will refuse to give up the paper because it has her “best” doodles on it.
  • One clueless kid who is mentally frolicking with horses in a lovely tableau of rainbows and lollipops will tuck the paper into her binder while staring into space.
Where some of my students are while I'm giving directions.
Where some of my students are while I’m giving directions.

At least five of these papers will arrive several minutes after I have collected the “stacks” from the front row. Some of them will be delivered personally with great fanfare, as I am giving further directions—which, as I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, defeats the purpose of passing the papers while remaining in seats.

Three to five of the papers I receive will not have a name on them. Several minutes after they’ve been collected, someone will jump up from his seat and yell, “Wait! I forgot to put my name on it!”

When class is over, at least one person will leave that paper on her desk.

Another will leave it shoved inside a desk.

Another will ask, “What are we supposed to do with this?”


A few weeks ago, when New Classroom Rules was at the height of virality, I got a nasty comment from a homeschooling mom who said she felt sorry for me because I couldn’t see that children learn in different ways and aren’t meant to act like “little robots” in classrooms that drain all the joy and creativity out of learning. Maybe she’s right—learning with restrictions and demands isn’t ideal. But it’s necessary. I worry that the way we’re raising our kids today renders them unprepared not only for school, but also for life. Were classrooms always full of kids who couldn’t function in a classroom? Is this phenomenon new? Didn’t you used to get beaten with a ruler or wooden paddle if you failed to conform to simple classroom procedures?

I’ve been in meetings where parents have suggested that because of their child’s high anxiety and attention deficits, he won’t turn in his homework, so the teacher should walk over to his seat every time homework is due and personally ask for it. Are you kidding me? The utility company doesn’t give me “credit” just for writing a check; I also have to mail it. I can’t request that because of my “high anxiety” and “attention deficits,” a representative from the utility company show up at my door on the first day of every month with tea and crumpets, a kind smile, and a gentle reminder to pay my bill.

My husband calls this sense of entitlement the “special, special snowflake syndrome.” We’ve got a generation of uniquely-named, uniquely-dressed-and-coiffed individuals who are going to exasperate the hell out of their bosses someday.

Boss: I need those reports on my desk by 3:00.

Brytnee: Can I email you mine tomorrow? My fish died.

Boss: I need them by 3:00.

Brytnee: But I have to bury him. Also, I prefer to work at night because night work is in harmony with my Circadian rhythms.

At this point, even though Brytnee’s boss should fire her, he probably relents because he’s still recovering from a 20-minute conversation in which Maddisynn, who spells her name with a y, two d’s, two n’s and an invisible q, refused to take off the fairy wings she wore to the office.

Kids, if you want to be recognized, you have to earn people’s respect. And you do that by doing what’s asked of you. Not putting your name on your paper doesn’t make you an Einstein or a Frida Kahlo. It just makes you somebody who can’t follow directions and function in a group setting.

Sometimes you have to forget yourself and do what’s necessary for the benefit of the group.

Sometimes you have to be a robot.

21 thoughts on “Special, Special Snowflakes

  1. YES! Screw that homeschool mom. I’m so sick of homeschool moms blaming the teachers and classrooms for everything. You think your kid’s boss is going to be fine with Johnny homeworking at a job that isn’t meant to be done at home? NO! Everybody get over yourselves, join the rest of society, and do your damn work like a regular human being. Oh, and anybody who thinks I’m being insensitive to children with special needs or circumstances can kiss my patootie. My own son has a list of special needs, and he seems to get along just fine in a classroom setting with an IEP and some law-protected accommodations that don’t include his teachers chewing up his food for him and spitting it into his damn mouth like he’s some sort of baby bird and shit. In short, everybody needs to quit being whiny crybabies and DO THEIR FRIGGIN’ PART IN THIS WORLD.

    Also, I LOVE the names because IT’S SO TRUE. Nobody with a normal name has parents that request teachers part the Red Sea for their precious babykins on the daily.

    Whew. Good to get that one out 😉

  2. One of the things my son knows is that school is teaching him how the real world is and that he won’t always get along with his boss or coworkers, that he has to follow the rules even if he disagrees and that he has to be responsible for his own work! Great post!

  3. You are sooo right. Are you sure you are not in my classroom? I am so tired of the whiny, entitled children AND parents. They (the parents) have no idea of the demands placed on us, and how hard we are working to prepare their children for life. I love reading your posts…I need to laugh after my days at school! Keep’em coming!

  4. By creating a world of little special people and encouraging grossly exaggerated limitations we weaken ourselves as a whole. By the extremely liberal use of the word “bullying” we ill prepare the next generation. It saddens me that gym teachers can no longer play sports that might exclude someone I.e. dodgeball. These are fundamental. Both class and PE have the core tenant that you must follow the rules, do your best, less you fail. Failure is a tool. To teach you to get back up, put aside your ‘weakness’, cowboy the hell up, and get the job done.

    Overcoming failure and learning is tbe core principle of wisdom. You cannot have wisdom if you don’t fail.

    I have seen this latest generation in the US military now. They haven’t outgrown it. I have to only hope we parents will simply say “I don’t care how Brytnee does it, you’re going to do it right”.

  5. Instead of helicopter moms, we now have snowplow parents who try to push all obstacles out of their child’s way, thus never teaching their child how to overcome said obstacles.

  6. Instead of helicopter parents, I’m finding more snowplow parents, parents who charge ahead of their children clearing all potential obstacles, thus leaving their children unable to overcome obstacles.

  7. My kid has a pretty unique name, so unique in fact that I have never heard another and fear she will hate me in her teens,yet I still expect her to go to school (though I considered homeschooling seriously at one point) and follow directions. Had I homeschooled, I still would have expected and taught her to follow directions. That is just a basic life lesson along with ABCs and 123s. I am all about mindfulness and individuality but not at the detriment of the group or disrespect to the teacher.

  8. Thank you for this! I started following your blog after another teacher shared “New Classroom Rules” with me. Most ironic part of the whole “Pass Papers to the Front of your Row” fiasco is that we have the same procedure in place for 30+ weeks of school EVERY YEAR and my students still act like I’m implementing some new order of operations!

  9. The “New Rules” blog is the best piece of sardonic writing I’ve read lately – you are right on target!! Or since we’re educators, right on task. 😉
    I’ve had parents of eighth graders tell me that since Little Jackie is a visual learner, auditory learner, kinesthetic learner, he/she shouldn’t have to do social studies homework at all. Once I got my breath back, I was able to point out no matter what job the little darling gets he/she would have to express ideas in writing. Plus, all those homework zeroes, which could and should be 100s, would make an awful dent in grades.
    Don’t stop writing!!

  10. Unconditionally agree. I was raised in a pretty strict Military Dad setting and, even though I am not quite as a severe, many of my Father’s teachings and habits have translated into my life as an educator. When I first started teaching, I came in with a plan: set expectations and NEVER stray. I am proud to say that I have kept to my guns. That means that when I define “on-time” as seated at the bell, standing and chatting at the back of the room or jumping through the doorway at the bell is not accepted. Or when I say, “I don’t give locker passes,” I actually DO mean that I will never allow a student to leave my classroom destined for their locker. Simple. What I notice, is that my students for the most part are on-time and prepared. As a result, I have more time to teach (funny the way that works) and more time to be the excited, quirky version of me that loves to get kids into History! On the occasions I have been in other, more loosely-organized classrooms at the bell, it pains me to see the chaos unfolding as students jump over the desks while suddenly shouting, “Oh, man! I left my book in my locker can I go get it?”

    Anyone (teacher, parent, or otherwise) that doesn’t see the importance in following rules and keeping to set expectations is an idiot. I have definitely had to defend my “system” on more than one occasion.

    Keep up the good work!! 🙂

    P.S. I read your “New Classroom Rules” post to a group of my Honors students who said it sounded like I had written it myself!

  11. I’ve used the s.s.s descriptor for a few years now…( I don’t bother with the 2nd ‘special’)… gawd knows their self esteem is already pumped full enough! It hits the Venn diagram of oozing sarcasm and painful reality dead on.
    I’m a career middle school guy and have deal with my fair share of SSS sufferers in my day, and have to admit that the disease is spreading more all the time. We have one room of gr 7s that we, with hushed whispers in the staffroom, have nicknamed “the island of misfit toys.” 4 or 5 SSS sufferers got grouped together and have done their best to grind any productivity to a halt.
    fun, fun!

    BTW… just found the link to your blog through a friend on Facebook, and love it.

      1. LOVE to. If you can see my email address through your web-thingy there feel free to send to me. If you can’t….tell me how we can get in contact.

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