The scariest moment for me as mother was when I put my son on the school bus for the first time. In a split second the "Can he really be this grown up?" was replaced with, "He's still just a baby. I can't protect him on the school bus. Who will take care of him?" I was immediately aware, from my own experience as a teacher, of the new words he would be learning and the behaviors he would witness. Every single offense written on the bus slips for the principal flashed through my head and I was convinced a very different boy would get off the bus that afternoon. Almost 8 years later my boy is kind, respectful, and empathetic, despite riding the school bus for just as many years. It has been a relief to know that his father and I raised him to resist the temptations of fitting in, being popular, and caving in to negative influences. As he quickly approaches his teen years, I am confident (although not blindly so) that he will continue to choose the right path for himself.
This morning, during a snack break in my classroom, I overheard a small group of students cracking jokes and laughing it up. The nature of the jokes quickly escalated to offensive, disrespectful and crass. I was appalled. Where had the kids heard these things? A television show on MTV.
Looking back on this slice from my day, I am reminded that kids are raised in different homes with different values than my own. I respect that. But I also feel like it is my responsibility, as a teacher, to shield my class as a whole from the behaviors that may be unacceptable to some. As a parent, I am well aware that once a child is exposed to something, it cannot be taken back or undone. They can't unsee the movie that was just above an appropriate rating or unhear the swear words on the bus or unsay the inappropriate things they mimic. They will not forget the reaction they get from their peers when they share the first crude joke and it will feel good to get that attention and they'll keep doing it for that same response. We have to find a way to stop this vicious cycle. It starts at home and we can only hope, as teachers, we can make a positive difference despite the challenges our students face.
Here I was, worried about the school bus all those years ago, when the real concern now is in our own living rooms every night. I read something once about how when you turn on the television you are inviting people into your home and these people are spending time with your children. There are so many television shows on now in which people take unbelievable risks, treat people with sickening disrespect, and idolize people do cruel things. And don't even get me started on the Republican debates. How can we teach children to grow up knowing right from wrong and how to treat others with respect when they are watching adults on television (and in real life) do exactly the opposite?