Behavior in the classroom-worse now than they were 20 years ago, and why?

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by massteacher, Nov 20, 2010.

  1. massteacher

    massteacher Companion

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    Nov 20, 2010

    Hi All,
    I've been mulling this over the past few years and have been trying to figure out if others feel the same. I am still a new teacher..did a couple of LTS positions, supervised a 21st CCLC after school program, and now teach Elementary School. The behaviors that I've encountered in these past few years are nothing like I remember happening years ago. Although, I was on the student end of the stick so maybe my thoughts are skewed. Most students are still very well behaved, but I've encountered kicking/throwing pencils (isolated incidents, but have happened) pure disrespect and noncompliance. Have any of you experienced this, and do you think it's worse now than before, and what do you think the reasons are for this?
     
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  3. schoolteacher

    schoolteacher Habitué

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    Nov 20, 2010

    This is a thought provoking question.

    I taught 20 years ago, left teaching to raise my three daughters, and have recently returned to teaching.

    I find that I am having more discipline issues with students this time around.

    After analyzing the situation, I have come to a conclusion. When I taught 20 years ago, the special ed kids in our district were placed in a self contained classroom.

    Now, I have the inclusion class, and I have 7 students with IEPs.

    It makes a HUGE difference in daily life in the classroom.

    However, If 20 years ago I had had the special ed kids in my classroom, I do not believe I would be noticing much of a difference now.
     
  4. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Nov 20, 2010

    Long story ahead, sorry:
    I had conversation about the topic with our school psychologist and my vice-principal the other day after hearing about a road-rage incident in our parking lot after school the other day. A visiting speech pathologist left the building just before the end of the school day and found her car blocked in by a parent picking up a child from school. She went to her car and gestured to the parent that she needed to pull out of her parking spot. She was given the finger and sworn at by the father. She was shaken, but got into her vehicle and started it. The man left his vehicle, came to her window, swore at her some more and then returned to his vehicle, turning off the ignition. The speech path was afraid to get out of her vehicle, but was able to get the licence plate number which she reported to the office and the police.

    While this case is extreme, we see things like this almost every day--a complete focus on "me" and a disregard for others around. Parents send the message to their children every day that everyone else is "in the way" or a bother. Is the car in front driving too slowly? Cut them off. Is the line up at the grocery store too long? Take your full cart to the express line. Does little Joey get in trouble at school? Blame it on the teacher. Kids learn what they see and hear.
     
  5. Super2ndGrade

    Super2ndGrade Rookie

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    Nov 20, 2010

    Yep, it seems back then kids sat in their desks, watched the teacher, and did their work. :lol: The parents are getting softer on their kids, and doing a lousy job parenting.:p
     
  6. Securis

    Securis Cohort

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    Nov 20, 2010

    I've encountered some information through reading and public radio regarding the formation of executive function skills. In our world these days, there are very few reasons for children to form their own boundaries, rules, and structures. These types of behaviors are instilled during creative play. The types of creative play that children engage in these days are nearly all sensory input without any additional critical thinking needed to expand their executive function.

    A study that I heard about said that 60 years ago a 5, 8, and 12 year old were asked to do the simple task of standing still. The 5 year old didn't perform well but the 8 year old stood still for several minutes and the 12 year old stood still for an indefinite amount of time. This test was repeated in recent years and the 5 year old still did not do well but oddly neither did the 8 year old and the 12 year old did not perform as well as 8 year olds 60 years ago. In the end the study linked the deficits to creative play.

    Sooo, what to do about that?
     
  7. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Nov 20, 2010

    I haven't been a teacher for 20 years and I am only really a 2nd year teacher. But, it seems as though some kids today are dealing with things that maybe kids didn't deal with 20 years ago. I was tutoring at a middle school where some of the kids' parents were gang-members and wanted the kids in the gang too. Gangs do not need education because their incomes are usually generated by illegal activity, therefore there is no value in school. So, I think a lot of it stems from home. In addition, I think another factor that is often over-looked is the need to engage our students by ways that excite them. Their world revolves around technology, as does the real world, but seldomly do our classrooms simulate the real world. I think we might find students better engaged, and consequently better behaved, if we were to include their technology into our teaching and, most importantly, into their learning.
     
  8. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Nov 20, 2010

    Tami~I agree that a lot has changed in the family structure from 20 years ago to today. Today, most households have both parents working. There are a lot more single parent households where the parent is having to work multiple jobs. By the time the parent gets home, they are too tired to deal with the behaviors of the child.

    There have always been behavior problems in school. I think what has changed the most is 1)the # of students with behavior problems, and 2)how the parents and admin handle the behaviors. Parents used to always back up the teacher and school. Now adays, it is the school's fault for the student's behavior.
     
  9. John Lee

    John Lee Groupie

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    Nov 20, 2010

    I will go and say it's not THAT big a difference in terms of attitude and such. I can't speak from experience as a teacher that far back... but I think it's similar, and maybe slightly worse today. But behavior is certainly "worse" than 20 years ago I would imagine (actually 20 years is only 1990! I'm thinking more 30 years ago, cuz I don't think it's changed much since 1990.) I think diet plays a tremendous factor in that slight but apparent change though. Back in my day (as a little kid), we didn't have nearly the packaged choices of food stuff I'll call it, that we do now. Now we have prepackaged everything. Artificially preserved, treated, chemicalized...

    I have to think that stuff in kids today can have the effect of making it more difficult to focus, hyperactivity, restlessness, etc.
     
  10. scmom

    scmom Enthusiast

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    Nov 20, 2010

    Such an interesting (and probably politically incorrect) question and answers. Here is my scoop:

    1. Loved the answer about play and the executive function of the brain. I absolutely believe in the value of a play-based early childhood environment to teach those very important social and emotional skills and problem-solving.

    2. I think this generation is suffering from the way their parents were raised with the emphasis on self-esteem and being your child's friend. Now they don't know how to parent with balance.

    3. We have become a society of excuses and lack of accountability and consequences.

    4. Many children who have been in institutionalized daycare since they were babies quickly realize that the schools can't give consequences that really deter kids. I am not advocating corporal punishment in the schools like when I was growing up, but children don't seem to have the same respect or are "scared" by potential consequences of their actions.

    5. Too many working moms, 1 parent homes, families living on the edge who don't have the time and energy to really parent.

    6. Too much t.v. and video games - not enough free play outside, interacting with each other and the environment - plus the influence of what they are watching.

    7. The low education level (and pay) of many daycare providers who are the ones who need to instill these basic values and behavior management because they are around the children more waking hours than the parents.

    8. Too much emphasis on test scores rather than teaching children to be well-rounded individuals.

    9. Not paying attention to gender and the way boys need to learn - active, hands-on learning - we expect them to sit still and learn in a way that is not natural to them and then we wonder why they misbehave.

    10. Teachers burdened with too many kids in a classroom and add the children with special needs on top of that.

    A complicated and interesting topic.
     
  11. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Nov 20, 2010

    I have been teaching for 36 years. In my experience, times have drastically changed in schools. I agree with many of the reasons already stated about why things have changed and I have some thoughts of my own. The way we teach has changed enormously from 20-30 years ago. In the beginning of my career we taught creatively (that's the best word I can come up with). We chose our curriculum and chose how we would teach it. We did not rely on scripted textbooks. We taught children how to read and write, how to do math, science, social studies, civics, geography, etc. Most children came to us with basic manners and civility, and respected the adults around them.
    Now, the emphasis in public education is preparing every child to be exactly like every other child. Testing, retesting, and more test preparation has replaced the creative teaching we used to do. We are required to teach basic manners and social skills. If a subject is not on the standardized tests, it is not taught. Our children have no knowledge about the country they live in, civics-wise or geography-wise. Children are not taught to take responsibility for themselves and how to function in a world that doesn't include multiple choice questions.
    What I miss most about teaching decades ago is the excitement that coming to school meant for most children. They came ready to explore new knowledge and participate in new activities. If the children expressed an interest in learning about dinosaurs, that what we taught...and we incorporated every subject area in the lessons. Today, we are told exactly what topics are to be taught every year, and we can't do something different because then we wouldn't be covering the necessary standards for that grade level for the testing.
    I can't help but wonder what kind of adults we are raising in our public schools. And the worst part of it...our children don't know what they are missing...
     
  12. scmom

    scmom Enthusiast

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    Nov 20, 2010

    swansong,

    Isn't it interesting that the more we know about brain development and the way children learn, the less schools seem to be practicing it? Canned curriculum, and a one-size-fits-all approach is the opposite of individualized learning accounting for different learning styles and temperaments. I really don't understand it...
     
  13. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    Nov 20, 2010

    Volumes have been written on the role of television, but most have focused on content, rather than amount.

    Here's what I see from where I'm at - a first grade teacher in a very middle class community.

    The parents of the students in my class do a very good job of making sure their children don't watch anything that's not appropriate for kids. None of them watch South Park, trashy reality TV, or anything R-rated. Few are allowed to play violent video games like Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty.

    For 95% of my students, all of the TV they watch is entirely age-appropriate.

    But...

    They watch a HUGE amount of TV that is geared for children (and even positively educational) and age appropriate.

    To understand why this is such a problem, you have to go back to when we were kids (or perhaps when I was a kid).

    Most of the time, there was very little on TV that was the slightest bit interesting to a 7 year old. We had Saturday morning cartoons, and maybe an hour of cartoons after school if you lived someplace where they had UHF channels as well as VHF.

    The simple fact was that almost on cue every Saturday morning, I would get up, turn off the TV and find something to do on my own. In fact, I think that cue was actually a Pepto Bismal ad which signaled "Cartoons are over, boring TV is about to start and you need to now go find something to do or your parents will find something to do for you." I wouldn't be surprised if, at that moment, millions of kids across America got up and started finding ways to amuse themselves.

    Finding something to do to amuse one's self is a skill that has to be learned, practiced, and maintained. Kids today do not have that skill. Children's programming is available 24/7. At home, there's never a moment when a child has to struggle to find something to do. On top of this, it's an unwritten rule of modern parenting that a bored child is a neglected child and it's the adults responsibility to entertain them. So if a parent decides to limit their kid's TV time, they often do so by filling the calendar with numerous planned and structured activities.

    There's nothing wrong with keeping an active child busy. But I've had many parents tell me things like "Yeah, if we don't keep Billy busy all the time, he just gets in trouble." That makes perfect sense, but there's only one problem. At some point, Billy has to learn what the boundaries are. When was a kid, you learned those boundaries by experimentation. Dad says "Don't touch my tools." I go out in the garage, touch Dad's tools, get caught, and end up in my room. What did I learn? Simple, when Dad says don't do something, don't do it. That was a boundary and I learned it. I will now look for things to do that are free of Dad's prohibitions.

    Kids today don't have to face this dilemma because they never venture out into the garage to play with Dad's tools in the first place because they don't have the time. Their time is either filled with 24/7 cartoons, or a full schedule of soccer, gymnastics, art classes and birthday parties for kids they barely know.

    This is why you get the parents who insist that their troublemaker at school is a perfect angel at home. The reason the kid is a perfect angel at home is that there's never a moment at home where the kid has to decide for himself what to and whether or not it is something that will get him in trouble. But at school, he goes out on to the playground and suddenly he has to find a way to have fun that won't get him in trouble. Because he lacks experience in this matter, he doesn't realize that tossing a rock in the general direction of a group of kids sitting at a table is a really really bad idea. This was the case last year with a kid who did exactly that and then didn't understand what the big deal was and why I was so mad.

    Conversely, it also explains how, each year, some of the poorest kids in my class are also my best behaved students. They don't have the long resume of extracurricular activities and may very well not have cable. The parents of these kids are quick to point out that their child isn't perfect and sometimes gets in trouble. And I don't doubt that the kid probably does get in trouble at home. But because of that, however, you have a child who has learned boundaries and has experience with the kinds of actions that are acceptable and which ones are inappropriate because they've probably tried the inappropriate ones and gotten caught. Thus, even though the school has no actual rule against throwing rocks, he knows that it's an action similar in stupidity to the one that got him sent to his room last Saturday. So he doesn't throw the rock.
     
  14. heavens54

    heavens54 Connoisseur

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    Nov 20, 2010

    I also think that forcing children to learn the standards, all at the same time, forcing them to spend hours and hours in the testing environment, and cramming information that is two grade levels higher today than it was 20 years ago can have an effect on our students behavior. Can you imagine having to learn the rigorous curriculum when we went to school that the children are expected to learn and know today? We brow beat them into learning and remembering these facts, test them constantly, call them failures if they don't make the expected benchmarks. We take more recess and PE minutes away because maybe that will provide more time for instruction and EDI. Games? Experiments? Hands on inquiry based learning? Field trips, projects, missions, models, posters? HA, who has the time for such nonsense in their classrooms these days. We must spend that time injecting more standards in those developing brains. Third graders are doing advanced fourth grade work. And if they can't cut it, if they don't like sitting still while taking another unit test, if they want to go out and play and blow off steam, we call them difficult and annoying. We have created a school environment where children are not allowed to be children anymore, they are lab rats...just my humble opinion. It is sick and twisted.
     
  15. Sagette

    Sagette Companion

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    Nov 20, 2010

    I have been teaching since 1997 and I have noticed a huge decline in behavior and manners. While I do think schools share some culpability with the backwards curriculum and over testing, I believe a large part of this is due what another poster wrote about parenting being all about "self esteem" and making sure each child feels "special" and like a "winner" despite the fact that once they read the adult work force if they are unable to produce, the boss isn't going to blow happy sunshine their way. I work with far too many students who don't care about turning in homework or behaving in class because their parents will raise a big stink and we'll have to give them an A to shut the parents up and keep our jobs.
     
  16. John Lee

    John Lee Groupie

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    Interesting. I'd like to read more about this study... it reminds of a class I was in a couple days ago, where the kids came in from lunch and were practically foaming at the mouth in terms of inability to control themselves. Now, part of it of course, is the fact that they are a bit amped after playing at lunch. But I was struck by the inability of these to settle, considering their behavior pre-lunch was much different.

    This thread has turned quite interesting (the Sarge, swansong's perspective, and others). The point about kids being put in 100 activities is so true. I also see the whole enabling mentality that parents place upon their children these days.
     
  17. massteacher

    massteacher Companion

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    Wow. What great responses. I agree with Sarge and the amount of television that is available for children 24/7 and not having the skill to entertain oneself or explore cause/effect with figuring out the right/wrong things to do. I remember reading a study that too much television can significantly raise the chances of ADHD, as television shows (even the academic ones), are constantly moving/changing scenes/commercials that cut it off, which puts the brain into overdrive to dissect the amount of stimulation and movement going on in the show. It can make it hard for children to focus on just one given task as a time, which makes complete sense to me. Also, I agree with the self esteem/parenting as a friend idea as well. Many of the children in my class come from middle/upper class families, but have such disrespect, and part of me feels like the parents talk to them as a peer, not as a child, so the children simply do not have respect for adult figures. We teach second step social skills curriculum once a week, but I always try and infuse other hands-on projects to build community and respect for others in the class, because I feel like it's a huge social skill that the youngsters are missing.
     
  18. heavens54

    heavens54 Connoisseur

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    I think it is a combination of all these things.

    Let me throw in another one; administration. They are afraid to do anything about anything because they might get sued. If the child doesn't get the award for the task, even if they didn't reach the goals specified, they still get to go on the trip or get the treat because admin doesn't want to deal with the grief from the parents, or the law suit that might ensue if their little johnnie, who does nothing to earn a treat, doesn't get to participate with the rest of those that did. I see it all the time. The teacher's hands are tied. They get over ruled all the time in these situations. If there is a field trip, even though little johnny didn't do squat in class all year, he still goes.

    Basically, there are no concequences that the schools enforce and the children know it. They get whatever everyone else is getting, and it is not about merit. Sends the wrong message.
     
  19. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Nov 20, 2010

    :yeahthat:
     
  20. webmistress

    webmistress Devotee

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    Nov 20, 2010

    I think it's definitely mostly parenting values, breakdown of the family and society values etc....but schools are to blame too...

    Truer words were never spoken. It's so sick and twisted that I'm morally against it, and thus find myself jobless or having to try low-paying private schools. I did not spend huge money to make such little money, but I can't bring myself to be a part of what's happening in public schools here at this time, hopefully something will change for the better.

    You also made a good point about administration. Way too many are afraid of the parents, and the burden for violent discipline issues fall solely on the teachers.
     
  21. Yank7

    Yank7 Habitué

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    Nov 20, 2010

    I have been a teacher for 40 years and you hit it right on the head.The test mania has killed teaching,Nobody cares about anything but test scores,discipline doesn't matter.The media has made teachers the cause of all of society's ills.Parents are not attuned to education as they once were,and parents do not have the influence they once did over their children. I used to love meeting parents on open school night,now I feel it is ,for the most part a waste of time and has little effect on the discipline or work habits of the children.Administrators used to try and support the teachers,now they try to catch them doing something wrong and please dare don't question them about a discipline problem,they are more worried about a parent reporting them then supporting their teaching staff.
    This said,I still find many caring and wonderful children in the school I teach,I just wish they were given the full opportunity to learn without putting up with all the nonsense that surrounds them!
     

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