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Sometimes, when I am sitting in a classroom of high school students I wonder ‘Was I like this? Them?’ The older a student ages, the more they seem to engage in rudeness, aggression and they hold a great deal of fear towards the opinions held by others. In a short period, I have sat and taught in the classrooms of first graders, second and fifth graders, middle school students and freshman and sophomores in high school.  They all live in different towns, have different family situations and they all live in a world that has been defined by the era of post 9/11. I was fortunate enough to have almost two weeks of high school prior to 9/11. They did not.

In the time I have begun to substitute teach, I have reemerged into a world that parents often tell their children they will forget in the coming years. On my first day of teaching, the students chose to inform me on four separate occasions that my ears stick out. I gladly thanked them and asked them to go back to their work. The younger the students are, the more understandable it becomes. But I must admit I find it entirely odd when a group of sophomores in high school struggle to act older than middle school children. When I spoke to their teacher at the end of the day, she told me that it was not my age that made them display little respect, but in general, they have little respect for anyone.

If you have yet to hear, times in the economic sector are poor and I wonder how the future work force can compete without foreign forces, if fifteen and sixteen year old students cannot find respect for themselves and others when they wake up in the morning. Maybe I am too overly critical, but if I chose to use the phrase, “For sophomores, they were okay,” when I leave reports for teachers, then I chose to give them an excuse that will build into greater excuses and greater pitfalls until they realize that the outside world has little respect for them.

Students need nurturing and guide lines and a clear understanding of right and wrong. I understand the role that I inherit as a substitute teacher, but I also understand that when I walk into a job interview or I shake hands with the parent’s of a close friend, I’m not merely making an impression for myself, but for my parents, my brother and the friend that has allowed me to meet their parents. In a school setting this idea does not end with social graces or in the grade point averages, instead it extends to the teacher, the principal and the parents of the students who act less than sophomoric.