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My students often try to use my age against me. I look young, therefore I must be able to relate to my students. Don't get me wrong, I definitely relate to the majority of my students, but there are some things that I just can't relate to.
First example, cell phones and all of the other technological marvels that students bring to school. I confiscate cell phones when I see them used. Students say to me, "Come on Mrs. Miller! Didn't you use your cell phone when you were in high school?" I then have to explain that when I was in high school, cell phones had just come on to the market and were bigger than a house phone and so expensive that only the elite could afford one. I also explain that if I managed to get through high school without a cell phone, they should be able to as well.
Second example, extravagance. A couple of years ago, the high school prom was in San Francisco, and our school organized stretch limousines to transport students. This already is way over the top as far as I'm concerned. There was a parent who explained to our principal that the limousines the school reserved were unacceptable because they didn't have certain amenities included. The parent took the liberty of getting another limousine with such amenities to satisfy the high demands of the son. Unbelievable.
This extravagance is not only evident by the extracurricular activities arranged for students, but in the apparel they wear to school. The new trend is leaving price tags on and visible so everyone can see how much was spent. Kid come to school with a $600 tag hanging off of their jeans, a $250 tag coming out of their shirts and a $65 tag on their hats. Ridiculous.
I don't think these trends would frustrate me as much if we didn't have such a diverse student population at school. At my former school, 60 percent of students qualify for free/reduced lunch. Some are in the low-income bracket, some are in the poverty bracket. The remaining 40 percent of students are middle- to upper-class students whose parents buy them ridiculously expensive things, as mentioned above. It creates a tense learning/teaching environment. In almost every class, I have students with $600 jeans and the latest iPhone sitting next to a student who lives in his/her parents' car at the park because the family couldn't afford the bills.
Maybe I'm a bit "old school," but I don't think school uniforms would be a bad idea — they would eliminate many school tensions. I also don't think teaching kids about the value of hard work would be such a bad thing. Owning $600 jeans and having straight F's just doesn't seem like much of a life lesson to me.
My hope is that us young teachers out there will see the impact of the lack of parenting, or the impact of poor parenting, and do our best as parents for future generations to combat this problem. Instilling the value of hard work, the importance of education and the value in earning what you own in future generations will hopefully turn aforementioned issues around.
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