Inside Look at Disrespect in High School

by Lucy Armstrong


Today, it seems to many, that respect is expected to be given, but not returned. This is most often seen among peers, but as time passes and generations proceed to change, so do their manners and standards towards elders. Many students nowadays seem to think that mouthing off, not doing work, ignoring a teacher, or any form of disrespect towards someone older is okay. Being a student, I see these forms of misconduct every day in class, and if their roles were switched, the teacher would be fired.

A teacher should not have to deal with the contempt that exudes from many students within the classroom. With that said their fist-hand opinions on the subject are more important than an observer’s outside view. Mrs.Mann, one of the AP Chemistry teachers says “most of the time my biggest problem in the classroom is people talking when I’m talking because it’s distracting to their fellow classmates and it’s also super distracting to me,[…], when people don’t do their work when you give them time to do the work in class, because it’s like I’m trying to help you not have homework and you’re not doing it,”(Mann).  She has made the point which almost all teachers will make; take advantage of the time teachers give you to excel, don’t take advantage of the teacher.

Mrs. Benefiel gave more examples of disrespect in the classroom. She said, “Overall, I think the biggest problem is the lack of respect teachers are given by students.When a student talks back or attempts to argue with a teacher, this is very disrespectful and should not be tolerated.” Her experiences are exactly what I have seen most as a student. To me, when a student acts this way, they need to be punished publicly to set an example. Teachers work so hard to better future generations, and their support is needed to help every student improve. However when this support is not given back to the teacher, how are they supposed to carry out their job?

Mr. Panzano, an AP Human Geography teacher, proposed that the problem with difficult students is an ego contest. He says “What I’ve seen is people trying to skip in the bathrooms all the time. People walking down the hallways they shouldn’t be down. Teachers trying to intercept them, including me, and instantly getting a very defensive attitude from every single student. Like they have something to prove. One of the biggest issues is that it’s not an ego contest, I just have to ask where you’re going for your safety because of incidents like we have down south.” And finally, Mrs. Holiday, a new Pre-Calculus teacher to Freedom High School, had a very positive outlook on the topic. She said, “For the most part the majority of the students I have, the majority of the students I see,[…] in my portable area are very respectful and have great relationships with teachers.” Her experience is hopefully similar to other teachers in terms of its positivity.

Another viewpoint to consider is that of the student. There are about four-thousand students on the Freedom High School campus. That’s about twenty students per teacher. This means the students are going to have the most insight into the surrounding atmosphere. Many supported the idea that our school has too many who are disrespectful. Meleena Mohammed, a 10th-grade student, says “most of these students talk back and talk over teachers and don’t follow rules.”

After asking about one of the worst experiences with these students she states that a student was “talking back, and cursing, and just yelling” at a teacher. Another student, Heysha Garcia Melendez (grade 10), says that “they say disrespectful things to teachers […] I know that some students flirt with teachers, […] they talk out while a teacher is telling them instructions or they question everything that the teacher said.” A teacher has six to seven classes a day, five days a week. Nobody wants to deal with that type of behavior that much in their life. Some will say ‘but this is a teachers job, it comes with the territory.’ However, that should not be the case. These people go to college for four years or longer to be able to teach the young minds of today; they should not expect to be treated poorly.

Some students, however, felt that the case is reversed and teachers treat students poorly. Arianna Rundberg (grade 10), stated “staff treats students and everyone differently because of their past, or who they’re related to, or people they hang around with, so they get categorized into a certain circle where whoever they are hanging around with, they think that they’re like that so they get disrespected.”  She later gave me an example of this saying, “she [Arianna’s counselor] came up to me and it was already the end of B lunch and we were going to the sixth period, and she said ‘why are you in B lunch’. I was like ‘the bell had just rung’ and I ended up getting written up for skipping.” Arianna’s experience gives the point of view to the students who feel that teachers are the ones being disrespectful.

Few like Arianna believe that it is the lack of disrespect that comes from teachers that fuel the student’s inappropriate actions. In her case she expects respect and as long as she receives it she is willing to give it back, which I think is the same for most people. When this is the case, and a teacher or staff member mistreats a student it is hard for the latter to be expected to treat the teacher with the respect that they want. This is completely understandable, however, students don’t have to be quiet when it comes to these type of incidents. There are ways to alter the circumstances so that the student is no longer on the harsher side. For example getting a parent involved, or talking with the principal or someone above the person disrespecting you. There are ways to fix the situation that does not involve making it worse, and in this case, all options need to be taken into consideration to prevent unneeded, harsh consequences.

As important as it is to address a problem, it is also just as important to find solutions. One of the most compelling actions to take were expressed by student Sebastian Uribe (grade 10). He addressed the problem of bilingual students getting away with cursing or saying rude things in another language besides English, and getting away with it. He said, “people will say things behind a teacher’s back, and the teacher can’t really do anything because they don’t know the language and they can’t react to it.” His response on how to fix this problem was to have teachers hold these students accountable. He addresses that even though they speak different languages, most teachers know keywords that can only have negative meanings or connotations in that language and that that can be enough to confront the student.

Another point of view from student Juan Castro (grade 10), is that this problem comes from people not knowing how to act in a school setting and that it is based on how people are raised. He thinks the way to best way to fix the problem is to begin by teaching children what is acceptable and what is not. Meleena Mohammed (grade 10) says “it can be fixed by inspiring interest and giving them [students] motivation, and like people getting a slap in the face with reality.” Her interpretation of the problem begins with students losing interest in school. She thinks if teachers and faculty found a way to make students want to be involved they would have a lot more respect for the people around them because then they would want to be there.

Many of the interviewees had the opinion that the dilemma follows this generation of students. The reason for this is the incorporation of technology into teens everyday lives. As technology has become more available and the applications within them more advanced, people lose personable qualities. Mrs. Mann made a strong argument that “As we grow in our technology and as people become more socially explicit and out there, people feel more confident in stating their opinions and their views very outwardly. So as we have more social media websites and outlets for that sort of thing we are going to see it reflected more in our homes and in our schools as well.” The primary way to effectively solve this problem may be with reinstating the idea that not everything should be put out as explicitly as people make it. There are ways to get opinions across without making enemies, which I think is a big message that students don’t realize can be done. If this was pounded into peoples minds then maybe there will not be as much pushback from students.

Zaria Travis, a tenth grader, made another reference acknowledging our cultural defects in promoting the disrespect that exudes into classrooms. She said “the influences, you see, all the reality stars and like the rappers and stuff, they’re famous for being disrespectful and people are just catching on to that, […] You rap about drugs and gangs, and what does everyone want to do, join drugs and gangs.” Her points make great examples of the degrading and disruptive parts of today’s culture which influences so many adolescents. If even these simple ideas were to be made more positive or even just taken away altogether, there would be many more looking up to the right people and in the right direction towards a better life that consists of good grades, college, and a bright future, instead of one working in a minimum wage store forever. Fixing these simple things could be the pushing point to get people to have better views of their teachers and elders.

The most important thing to be taken from these interviews is that “Disrespecting your teachers who work for like nothing trying to educate you isn’t going to get you anywhere, it’s just going to make your life more difficult,” (Meleena Mohammed).