Disrespectful Students Can Drive Teachers Away

Repeated abuse and disrespect causes good teachers to lose their faith in teaching


Denise Puryear

Not paying attention

Alex McKnight, Guest Writer

Over my years at Lee High School I have witnessed sheer disrespect onto some of the best teachers I have ever met. No teacher is perfect but, teachers are still people. The reasons for each student’s attitude problem are unknown but even if something is happening to you, personally, that does not give you an excuse to treat others badly.

We are required to go to school every day because we must learn, and yes that isn’t fun and you’d rather be doing anything else, but it isn’t the teacher’s fault. Their jobs are to teach us not to be our baby sitters.

English teacher Gerri Sterling talked about how the attitude of students has affected her.

”I don’t get discouraged, I get frustrated. I believe that they act, that way because they just don’t care, or they want a reaction. There is this distance between kids and adults. Once kids realize teachers are people, the rudeness goes down,” Sterling said.

As Sterling said, as students mature they begin to realize that teachers have lives, families, homes, likes, and dislikes outside of school.

Sterling is not alone in her opinion. A history teacher who would prefer to stay anonymous had this to say about how the attitudes of students have affected him or her.

“Sometimes I get discouraged at the students. I think everyone does things in the spur of the moment that they later regret. You learn from it and hopefully, don’t do it again. It also frustrates me when I think that this behavior often starts at the home.”

Anonymous then discusses why he or she believes students act this way. “This could be the way students treat their parents, and, by extension, they treat teachers the same. It may also be the influences that their immediate outside culture has on them. If the student hangs out with students who don’t value school and teachers, they may also feel that way. Lastly, at some point, the education system may have failed them and they resent the system because of it,” the history teacher said.

Both teachers have made great points about why they believe students act disrespectfully.

A very different point of view on this subject came from Alexis Rosen, a George Mason graduate teaching English classes at Lee. As she prepares to enter the secondary teaching field, she is fearless about dealing with bad attitudes from current and future students.

“Realistically if it happens once, I will talk to the student and stop it from happening again. If anything, it makes me want to do more about it,” Rosen said.

Rosen discussed why she feels that students act out. “I think that if a student is acting rude to a teacher, it’s not personal; it’s more like they had a bad time in a past class, a bad grade in your class, and teachers can be rude to kids. Kids lash out when they don’t understand. If kids are just being horrible, and everything I try doesn’t work–I don’t believe that it will happen–but after a long time of disrespect, you run out of care and patience,” Rosen said.

All three teachers share similar opinions about why students act rude and disrespectful to teachers. Yet despite an awareness of the causes of student misbehavior, I still have witnessed over time teachers losing hope, dulling down, and kind of giving up on teaching. It is very sad to watch your favorite teachers lose their love for their job.

I asked the three teachers whether or not they believe that the attitudes of students will or have affected how long they see themselves teaching.

“I can’t say that is hasn’t, but, thus far, I’m not going anywhere,” anonymous said.

Rosen is mindful of the effect bad teachers had on her and does not intend to repeat these mistakes in her teaching.

“Some teachers go into teaching with an authority complex. I wanted to be a teacher to not be the teachers I had teachers who would just kick me out of class instead of helping me. I grew up with teachers who were able to become teachers straight out of high school,” Rosen said.

Sterling talked about how she loves her job, but she will be retiring soon and how the demands of the job have contributed to that. “The attitudes of students have affected how long I will teach and want to teach. I now countdown the days to retirement even though I like my job, and I like where I work,” Sterling said.

Some may say that kids will be kids, but that idea can’t and shouldn’t be accepted. When every year teachers get abused and taken advantage of by disrespectful students, they begin to lose their faith in teaching. So a once amazing, bright, and happy teacher is dulled because he or she is running out of steam. How is this fair?