Kids Are Kinda Jerks
Today I was an 8th grade social studies teacher at Jefferson Middle School in Champaign. I was excited to be in the classroom again after what has felt like ages (really only three weeks). But while I was there, I realised something: kids are kinda jerks.
Not all kids are jerks, and I don’t think the ones who are intentionally mean to be so, but still… they’re not very nice, especially to each other. The best example I have to offer of this was from my second class. There is a girl in the class with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is an autism spectrum disorder. By 8th grade, one would expect that students are aware of the difficulties that are caused by this syndrome, and they would have some level of compassion for those who suffer from it. (If you aren’t aware, and you couldn’t be bothered to click the link, Asperger’s is most noted by severe difficulties in engaging in social interaction, among many other things. I know students who have been diagnosed with Asperger’s in 5th grade, and it is probably diagnosed earlier. So I would have thought 8th graders would understand.
There was frequent mockery of this poor student, comments made to her and about her, and constant complaints that she gets “special treatment” because she’s “not normal like the rest of us” (an actual quote from one of her classmates). The girl ended up having a major melt-down and was escorted out of the room by an administrator, but I couldn’t help but think about how the situation could have been different if only the other students had not been so cruel. I spoke with several of the students and informed them that their comments were unacceptable and inappropriate, but I don’t know if it had any effect on them or not.
At another point in the day, I had students belittle one another, even their friends, and call each all sorts of names. I can’t help but wonder: was I like that when I was 13-15 years old? Was I a jerk like that? I am afraid that I was and I either didn’t know or didn’t care. Either one is totally unacceptable. But maybe jerkhood is a natural part of the developmental process. I would like to think that it isn’t but, at the same time, I see it happen so often that it definitely makes me wonder. What do you think? Are teenagers naturally obnoxious, or is it just this particular batch of 100 or so that I saw today?