I was a "walk in" at a nail salon on Tuesday afternoon around 5:30 p.m. The salon was not crowded when I arrived, so I delighted in immediate service. Within 15 minutes or so, the salon was packed, and people were waiting. When my nails were under the dryer at 6:15, a woman walked in and approached a nail technician who was sitting alone at a table while many people were waiting. The woman said 'Hi, I'm here." The nail tech was plainly upset, yet very controlled. She said softly in her English-is my-second-language-voice "Where were you? I must pass up others for your appointment." She was not stern, but she was upset that she could have made more money from another client, rather than waiting for this client. (If you have ever had your nails done, you know that the workers spend long hours at the salons- for very low pay.) The late client puffed herself up, put one hand on her hip, and thrust the pointer finger of her other hand into the nail tech's face, bellowing loud enough for everyone in the salon to hear, "Are you REPRIMANDING ME for being late? Is that what YOU are trying to do? To reprimand ME, in front of all of these people?" (It was truly ugly, and I think anyone who intervened would have become a punching bag, which is why I said nothing. I need my face and other parts of my body to be in complete working order.) This woman personified a bad attitude. The nail technician looked at her and attempted to hold her ground. "You are late. You could have called. I lost a customer." These words were not said in a pleading voice, just quietly, as a statement of fact. The woman did not back down; she shook her head and shouted again, "You ARE trying to reprimand me in front of all these people." After a short standoff and a few whispered words between the two, the bullying and bellowing lady with bad attitude sat down to have her manicure. It was an ugly scene to observe.
Throughout the exchange of words, the nail tech held her dignity while the thundering woman lost any dignity she may have had - the very moment she opened her mouth.
Of course, these two women were arguing about consideration and respect. The nail technician had a complete understanding of the meanings of those two words in two languages, but the client had no understanding of either word, not even in her native language, English.
Welcome to society today. You have probably noticed from the local news reports that these kinds of confrontations are not uncommon. We see videos of women wrestling in a Wal-mart. Road rage incidents abound. More and more, people show total disrespect for any authority figure and think that is OK, because they believe they are above listening to and respecting authority, or showing consideration for others. In essence, the accepted norm of society for so many years, being considerate of others, no longer seems to apply. I am thinking of these: drivers no longer pull to the side of the road to let an ambulance pass; people do not listen when the police tell them to sit, stand, or put their hands on the steering wheel; drivers zoom by the flashing red lights of a school bus; students believe that they are running the school, and teachers fear for their personal safety. You surely have noticed this pattern of no respect for authority, and no consideration for the other person. It seems to me that this behavior is becoming the norm, and showing respect and consideration, once the only acceptable behavior, are now the rare.
The event I witnessed on Tuesday precipitated this thought: I think that school teachers can play a major role in recovering decency and respect and consideration for others, and they can do it by being role models to their students on a daily basis. Showing respect and consideration toward students and others is the best lesson. Discussing the reasons that considerate behavior is appropriate further cements the lesson. Not all students are learning the social mores at home, and it is up to us, as educators, to share the knowledge of what is acceptable and preferred in our culture. Teachers are the keepers of the culture and the biggest influencers of young minds. We must be the teachers of not only basic skills, but also social mores.
I close with this profound statement from a great author:
“A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.” ― Robert A. Heinlein, Friday
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As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.
Dede's book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER, has now won 7 awards.
Dede was honored on Friday, June 12, at State College, PA, as she accepted an award of Album of Distinction for her book from Delta Kappa Gamma (International Group of Notable Women Educators)
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