*Please note all opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect on my Principal, School, School Board or even my own husband.

**Also note that although I am a teacher, I do have a learning disability. You may see evidence of this through my writing with my many run-on sentences and homonym mix-ups. I still have good ideas and won't let that stop me from expressing them and I tell my students the same thing.

***Even though many people think teachers know everything, I do not, in fact I know I have a lot to learn and that is part of why I love teaching. Feel free to teach me knew things, but when you leave comments, I ask that you be nice about it - thanks.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

What Ever Happened to Common Courtesy?

Is it just me or has a good portion of society stopped being polite?  When was the last time you had someone intentionally open a door for you, not because you were right behind them, but they saw you coming and waited for you, or saw your arms were full in the parking lot and offered to help...  maybe I am wrong, but I don't feel like the world is as warm and fuzzy of a place as it once was.

A few real examples for you:

On my flight to BC this summer, an elderly lady needed help putting her bag up in the luggage area and she asked the stewardess to please help her.  The stewardess said she couldn't because of liability reasons. Really?  

It isn't in anyone's official job description to clean a workplace kitchen?  It's not the custodian's job to do our dishes, it's not the office administrators job, it isn't the engineer/teacher/doctor's job to wash everyone else's dishes, so who does it?  Well, everyone should simply do their own dishes, or wipe the counter after they make a mess, wash out the microwave when food splatters, right?  Yet, this doesn't seem to happen.

I write these blogs from the perspective of a teacher and mom, and I can tell you that some of us are not doing a great job teaching our kids the basics of common courtesy.  The other day one of my colleagues made a comment to my class, "I bet you are not allowed to leave your things lying all over the floor at home?", she said. 

And I thought to myself... 
                                            at my house they do!  

Yikes!  My own kids (and me) are the worst - we leave our socks lying all over the house. We start a project and don't clean it up for weeks, we leave the last drop of milk in the milk bag and put it back in the fridge.  I get it, some of these things are normal and natural, but where do I draw the line? In my classroom, after literally 1 hour of being in the class, I collected: 6 pieces of paper, 5 writing utensils, an eraser, a toy, 2 books, a granola bar wrapper and a used bandaid off of the floor and counter top- wow!  Not to mention the 2 kids who did not change to their indoor shoes and tracked mud and the one child whose water bottle leaked because of bottle flipping.... 

This is the day where you sigh, count to 10 and think... I've got to do something about this. 

Would my own kids think to hold a door open for someone, offer someone help if it was obvious they needed it or pick up a piece of paper they accidentally dropped... I'd like to think so, but I don't really know.  I haven't seen it happen recently, because I am too busy focusing on myself and getting from point A to B to take the time to look, listen or notice.  

And I am not the only one doing this... which is why we have ended up where we are.

At school, there is the odd student who thinks to say thank you when I give them something (more  if it is candy, than a Math handout naturally), but until 1 person thinks to say it, often no one does.  In the hallway, kids don't always walk (they run, walk backwards, walk while reading a book or even using a computer and they are loud), they honestly don't even know they are supposed to walk on the right hand side of the hall or go through the right hand door. They walk taking up the entire hallway, even if others are coming the opposite direction. Many do not think to open doors for others and most do not give the teacher priority to walk through the door first. 

I don't want to be the kind of teacher that is nagging ALL day to everyone about everything.  I actually want to teach them the joys of reading and writing, and that math can be fun.

So what's changed? Nowadays teachers, have more things on their docket to think about. Yes of course, here comes a list...

Teach the curriculum, communicate with parents, accommodate or modify assignments and grading for students with IEP's, sit in on all meetings with special education teachers/speech therapists/social workers, mark assignments, plan lessons, teach using the latest technology and latest teaching strategies, fill in paperwork for any students being tested (ADHD, etc.), collect pizza/hot dog/popcorn money, hand out flyers/collect Scholastics, write report cards, Annual Learning Plan, Long Range Plans, School Learning Plan, integrate Character Education, FNMI, Zones, Digital Citizenship, coach teams/run clubs, plan field trips/book guest speakers... then there is the well-being of 28 students on your mind... ALL the time!  
  • What once was acceptable no longer is: I don't yell at my students, I don't give detention, I don't make them write out the dictionary, I don't belittle them in front of the class, I don't give the strap (anyone old enough to remember that?), I don't make them scrub the floor with a toothbrush or stand in a corner with a DUNCE cap (that's even older than me), we don't rap on their hands with a ruler...  do I want to do any of these things... NO!  For sure not... but many teachers are afraid to deal with the "wrath of parents", if they are too hard on their child. If I do hurt a child's feelings nowadays, there is a good chance I am going to hear about it from a parent. 
  • I'm not going to look up the statistics, but I think I can safely say that more students today have mental health issues like anxiety and depression than when I grew up.  More teens are cutting themselves and turning to drugs. Dealing with students who have anxiety or depression, keeps the adults in their life on their toes, as they don't want to make things worse by being hard on them or making them feel guilt or shame.
So, what are we doing about it? As a team leader at my school, I know we have come up with a number of strategies to enforce more rules without being too harsh.  We are going back to firmer routines, Lunch Rules, lining up outside and to get to classes.  We've put sign on the doors as visual reminders and we are talking more about expectations.  We are adding more consequences back and I do think parents are being supportive.  It isn't just teachers who are realizing we have moved a little too far to one side on this topic. 

For me personally, I think life is all about balance.  I am working harder with my class and my own children to follow rules and have common courtesy, not just for the sake of doing it, but why we do those things.  When you take time to explain to kids WHY, it really does make a difference.  I'm trying not to nag, but am being firmer and have higher expectations.  Kids don't want to disappoint you, so they are rising to the occasion and we are slowly breaking some bad habits. 

Now if I could only get my kids to stop leaving their socks all over the floor ;) 

I'd love to start more of a dialogue on here, so please leave comments below with your thoughts.  Thanks.


  1. This is a great read and I can really relate to what you've stated here. I think you've hit the root with "wrath of parents" and "no one wants to make it worse". I think that the playing field has become uneven because no one wants to enforce the tough consequences. It's too hard. If you can't fail, there's less incentive to work. If everyone gets a participation ribbon, there's less motivation. Balance is absolutely gone. I'm really curious to see what other comments you get.

  2. I can also relate to your post. Is courtesy just not a priority for people, or are families so busy nowadays that that they are just in survival mode and don't have time for anything else? I am glad to hear that some teachers are trying to make courtesy a priority. I find the 'wrath of parents' to be so disappointing. Aren't parents and teachers supposed to be partners that co-operate to do what is best for the children?

  3. So exciting... I have comments - thanks!

    I agree anonymous, parents and teachers are supposed to be partners and I believe in my case we typically are. Unfortunately you don't have to be on the grunt end of an angry parent very often to think twice about how you do things. And Meg, your comment about participation ribbons is inspiring another whole post :)


I love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to share... nicely!