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Handling rude students

There is evidence to suggest that members of the teaching profession are encountering a growing trend of rude and impolite behaviour amongst students at all our educational institutions. This behaviour is related but not limited to the increased use of technology such as cell phones and tablets of all types.

Here are some of the complaints that abound: disruptions like the ringing of cell phones in class, texting or sending messages while class is in progress, loud comments and sniggering, challenging teachers’ grading style during class, publicly bad mouthing lecturers/teachers and turning in assignments late without making prior arrangements.

So as usual I did some research, just to have a total view of such behaviour because whether you like it or not if it is happening here it is happening elsewhere, that is globalisation. The article this week is about impolite behaviour in the classroom.

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune (September 2009) unruly behaviour has gradually crept into the classroom environment. However, this behaviour is a reflection of the behaviour of the society in which we live.

Take for instance an incident I witnessed recently in a fast food restaurant. A dad appeared to have taken his daughter out for a treat. After buying the items he immediately bellowed to the child: “Tek dis! Dis fah you! Don gi na body none.” Not only is he reinforcing rude behaviour and ill manners in the child, he seemed to be oblivious to simple instructions like asking her/him to say thank you.

However, the Tribune article did mention that the majority of students are respectful in most cases. This seems to mean that most students display good manners and that only a small percentage are rude. Nevertheless, rude behaviour has entered the classroom where both adults and children can be observed discussing some academic point with each other and in the middle of the conversation they stop mid-sentence to respond to a text (BB) from someone else, without asking for an excuse.

Most people seem unconscious to the fact that this behaviour is not acceptable. Say for example you were carrying on a conversation and when the other person starts to make a point, you turn to talk to someone else, if you did not ask for an excuse this is considered rude behaviour, so texting while talking has the same effect.

Moreover, the impact of the media have brought its challenges to the classroom and have impacted on the way young adults dress and speak to each other. For instance, the behaviour of pop artistes and what their back-up dancers wear while performing on BET has become the mode of dress and behaviour for students at colleges/universities.

Therefore, it has become common practice for teachers in colleges/universities across the board to constantly remind students that texting and surfing the Internet while the lecture is in progress is a display of bad manners. And more importantly, that wearing clothing that shows off too much chest, belly and butt is not acceptable dress, especially when making presentations.

One wonders if the parents of these children are not aware of this behaviour but even parents are guilty of this behaviour. In a recent visit to one banking institution, I observed a teller chatting on her BB while attending to her client.

So where will it end? We are all playing the blame game but charity begins at home. When last did you observe a parent instilling values in a child like “say thank you”, or “please”. Words like “excuse me” seem to have become part of a dying art form.

Only this past week a teaching professional was in a classroom tutoring some students when a grown man opened the door, walked in, took a chair and left without uttering a word. When challenged by other students he appeared indifferent as if he had a right to do what he liked. So are you still blaming the youth?

An article by Williams (2007) has provided some support for claims by many teaching professionals. He suggested that because colleges/universities have dropped their elitist approach to education and are now taking in students from all socio-economic backgrounds, teachers are being faced with challenges like never before. This, he argued, is because some students are being sent to college/university whether they want to or not.

And I can add that some of them are there because it is the “in thing” and hence they may not be prepared for the experience. Williams further inferred that several students who are attending college/university do not have an understanding of basic classroom decorum. To compound the issue most lecturers expect that students come armed with good classroom etiquette from high school and they are most surprised to find out differently.

Again Williams’ research revealed that in most cases the offending students are unaware that they are being offensive or rude as this is not their intention. Furthermore, due to their immaturity they may demonstrate disruptive behaviour that most civilised individuals will interpret as rude.

So what do we do? The lecturer or teaching professional or administration can develop a set of rules and regulations that is distributed and reinforced at the beginning of each lecture to remind or educate students about expected classroom manners. According to the literature, once this is delivered with a smile most students will accept it and those incidents of impolite behaviour are reduced.

In closing, one can only say that by making students aware of the correct mode of behaviour expected in the classroom, the institution would not only be producing good academics but also better citizens. So instead of being prophets of doom and gloom we can all try wherever possible to reduce the level of rude and impolite behaviour in our classrooms one person at a time.

* Daren Greaves is a Management & Organisational Psychology Consultant at Dwensa Incorporated. e-mail:, Phone: (246) 436-4215

One Response to Handling rude students

  1. Clyde Layne November 27, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    And still all Barbados wants to hang The Head of the Garrison Secondary School.
    Stick with him,don’t make him feel as though he is the bad boy
    A few more like him, and you would see the change in the youth in a few years to come.
    There will be some bad ones no matter what,but lets keep them in the minority


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