One of the common complaints heard from adults is that the younger generation has lost all sense of civility and courtesy. This is nothing new. In fact, this belief, (falsely) attributed to the ancient Greeks, has found its way into hundreds of articles.
What’s different about our times is that many parents, instead of re-doubling their childrearing efforts, are actually modeling the inappropriate behavior. There seems to be a total lack of ownership of these behaviors by the students or their parents. Not only are they acting as if their children are entitled to be disrespectful, insulting and intentionally obnoxious, but they are compounding the problem by acting the same way.
For years, many of us have advocated that the school bus is an extension of the classroom. Usually we were referring to behavior rules used in the classroom that we would like to see enforced on the bus as well. Sometimes we have also borrowed strategies that classroom teachers use to modify behaviors. There is outrageously wild uncivil behavior, in the classroom, on the school campus and, yes, on the school bus.
Maybe this is what you get when the “entitlement generation” has children. Maybe it’s the polarization of society encouraged by customized media. Maybe it’s even the uncivil behavior exhibited by sports figures or politicians. Regardless, we, either individually or as a profession, are not likely to effectively eliminate the promotion of disrespect and selfishness.
It’s easy to overlook this atrocious trend. I didn’t recognize it had gotten so bad until one of our drivers was so intimidated by her junior high students that she tearfully apologized to her supervisor for having an accent. Rather than controlling the bullying behavior, she became the victim in the face of persistent and pernicious harassment. For her it was her accent, but it could have been almost any characteristic including visible appearance, physical ability, gender preference, ancestry, or even religion that becomes the target of student on adult bullying. One can only imagine the level of harassment that other students must put up with in this environment. Many of these students and drivers aren’t going to share their “victimness.” Instead they’ll just quit. A smaller percentage will overreact or become uncivil themselves in response to these behaviors. Neither of these reactions is acceptable.
It’s a difficult job raising children in an uncivil society. It’s not because parents have forgotten how to parent their kids. Rather, it’s that they’ve either given up or don’t believe it’s their responsibility to do so. And in a society where instantaneous gratification is revered, where many of the adults are obnoxious, too, and where if we don’t like the facts we just create our own, who can blame them?
How are we to react in this climate? NO – we’re not going to adapt because you feel empowered to bully. NO – we’re not going to lower the bar on student behavior (or adult behavior for that matter.) NO – we’re not going to re-define what is acceptable. NO - We’re not going to accept rationalizations like “(s)he was just blowing off steam” from either students or parents. We’re not going to accept being a victim, being intimidated or being quiet about it. Even if parents have given up, we must model the standards of behavior we want to see. More than that, we must insist our students demonstrate them while they are in our charge.
The “we’re just drivers” argument or other defeatist views just isn’t good enough. Our job is too important to let respect continue to erode. We shouldn’t be ashamed of sharing our values. In fact, we need to build them into our service guidelines and our procedures. We must be resilient and persistent with our expectations for ourselves and for the people we serve. It’s OK to expect to hear a thank you at the end of the ride. In fact, we’ve built it into our curriculum. Yes, we are here to educate. I choose to educate about respect and appreciation for a job that is often disrespected and underappreciated.
Our school buses may be some of the last bastions of civility and, pardon the pun, we’re not going anywhere!