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.
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.