Kids get a bad rap these days.
Nearly every time I tell someone that I teach at a high school they gasp in amazement, "Teenagers? Wow, you are brave! How do you do it all day?"
I usually just kind of smile and say, "I know- I'm nuts!" and most of the time that ends the conversation there.
But sometimes the conversation goes on. Sometimes those people are insistent on proving to me that I have made a terrible life decision in spending 182 days a year 8 hours a day with such little rats. They have many complaints about "teenagers these days" and they make sure I know them all:
Teenagers are lazy!
Teenagers are entitled!
Teenagers don't do a lick of work!
Teenagers are dishonest!
Teenagers are narcissists!
Teenagers are addicted to their cell phones!!
Teenagers don't have any respect!
Teenagers won't read if their lives depended on it!
Teenagers only care about themselves!
Teenagers are full of excuses!
The conversation usually ends in a huff and a puff and a "kids these days!" I stay mum because I'm not one to waste energy on a pointless fight, but I always think to myself, "You've got it wrong. It's not the kids. It's the parents."
Because the fact is that some teenagers are those things. And the trends show that more and more teenagers are that way with every passing year. I was talking to one of my favorite teachers yesterday after school. He's taught at this high school 33 years and he said to me, "I tell you, Bonnie, it gets worse every year and it's only going to continue to get worse. The ninth graders this year are something else entirely. They don't have a clue in the world of what's going on. If I could have known 33 years ago what I'd be dealing with today I never would have believed it."
But I firmly believe that it's not teenagers' fault. It's their parents fault.
Teenagers are lazy because their parents don't make them do chores around the house. They are lazy because this generation of parents will happily do the work their kids don't. They are lazy because when they don't want to go to school mom calls and excuses them. (I can't even tell you how many times I have seen a perfectly well student prance out of my classroom with an excusal note from mom that they are "sick"). They are lazy because when they are not ready for a test mom says they can stay home. They are lazy because instead of part time jobs they have playstations.
Teenagers are entitled because they are given cell phones at 10 years old. They have no idea what it costs to pay for the cell phone, the never ending text messages, the oh so important apps. They go for a decade (at least!) owning a cell phone without ever having to pay a cent for it. They are entitled because they are given iPads and xBoxes for Christmas and when the next Christmas rolls around they get the newest edition just. for. being. them! They are entitled because they got a brand new car for their 16th birthday and parents make the car payments and cover the insurance and do you need gas money, honey?
Teenagers don't have any respect because no one ever showed them how. I distinctly remember my first year of teacher when a kid stormed into my classroom, giving me attitude about a quiz I wouldn't let him make up. He was raising his voice and very clearly upset and I said firmly, "You leave this classroom and when you come back you show me some respect or else I will not be working with you." No one ever talks to me that way and I never talk to anyone else that way. He was clearly taken aback and apologized immediately, "I didn't mean to show disrespect, I'm just frustrated." When mom came for parent teacher conference four weeks later I watched in embarrassment as he sassed off to her, made snide remarks, treated her like dirt and she just took it. She never corrected him, never taught him how to have a conversation with respect. She cowered. And then kids come charging into the high school using the same attitude they learned to use with their parents and all us teachers shake our heads and say, "kids these days." Nope. Not kids these days. Parents these days.
Teenagers are addicted to their cell phones because they have no limits on when and how often they can use them. They are given free reign and don't have the age or maturity yet to know how to monitor or limit themselves. They are addicted to their cell phones because when they go out to dinner with the family the parents let them tweet and text and play candy crush through the entire meal. They are addicted to their cell phones because they look at mom and mom is on her cell phone, not bothering to engage in a conversation with them. No one is telling them when is okay to have their phone out and so it's always okay.
Teeangers won't read because their parents don't read to them. They weren't read to as children. They have no books in the house. Their parents have never told them what their favorite book is because parents don't have a favorite book. Teenagers don't read because families don't discuss books and because when a student doesn't like to read the parents asks his English teacher if he can just pass the class without having to do the reading please? Teenagers don't like to read because they weren't raised on it, they were never shown its beauty, they were only shown a TV.
Teenagers are full of excuses because their parents allow the excuses. They don't want to roll out of bed in the morning so they have "depression" and mom doesn't make them go. They can't focus on Shakespeare, they're bored, so boom, the kid has adhd. He needs extra time for his assignments and he doesn't have to complete the whole thing. When kids fail the class the parents call in, raging mad at the teacher, not the student, because surely something like that could not be the student's fault.
Teenagers are narcissists because their parents told them they can do no wrong. Their parents told them they are special and beautiful and better than all the other kids so teenagers think they are special and beautiful and better than all the other kids. They are told they are perfect, that they can't mistakes, that they are above discipline and above rules. If a kid doesn't like a teacher then lets just switch him out. Get him a new teacher instead of learning how to deal with a clashing personality. Lets hand pick his whole schedule because only the best for our superior child.
So no. I don't believe teenagers are getting worse with every year. I believe the parents are, and that's the sad truth.
I realize this is a fairly pessimistic view of parents today, but the fact of the matter is I'm tired of teenagers having to take the brunt of the blame for their generation. They are only what they are because they were raised that way. I also realize that there are millions and millions of teenagers who have none of the above qualities. I see them every day. I teach hard working, funny, smart kids who show respect and bust their butts for my class. And it ain't hard to see- those kids are also that way because of their parents.