The school year is starting in 8 days. Teachers in my school went back on Thursday for school PD, we’ll have two days of content PD (which means I get to hang out with all the other district librarians!), and then three days of school PD and some classroom set up time.
A few of my coworkers and I were having a discussion last week about students and how frequently they swear. It’s become part of their vocabulary. I call students out on three words: “F***”, “N*****” and “f*gg*t.” I assume everyone can figure out the words. I don’t call them out on “sh*t” or “crap” because I don’t think those are anywhere near as inappropriate. I also know to pick my battles!
My coworkers and I were discussing the difference between a student saying “aww, f* this assignment. I don’t wanna do it” and a directed “F* you!” at a teacher or other adult. In some views, there is no difference in punishment of the student. They swore, were inappropriate, and therefore get a phone call home and/or detention and/or a dean called to the classroom to have a discussion in the hallway with the student and a write up.
If a student slips and says “F* this,” I think that a verbal reminder of “We don’t speak that way,” is an important first step. I’ve pulled aside students to remind them that they are in school and it is like their job. They come here every day, they are expected to act a certain way, and it is good preparation for the working world to learn to self-censor your vocabulary. If a student continues with inappropriate language, then teachers need to escalate the consequence.
One of my favorite students is very loud and used to swear frequently. Now, if she slips, she apologizes right away. If she catches herself about to swear and pauses to correct herself, I thank her for catching it.
On the other hand, a directed “F* you!” is different than a general “F* this.” I’ve had a student curse me out directly after informing him of a 1-week library ban for a forged pass (that’s my standard ban for a forged pass): “F* you, b*tch!” which caused a call to the assistant principal, an email to the student’s teachers informing them of the issue, and an “until further notice” library ban (i.e. the student is not allowed in the library unless with his class and teacher until xyz happens). That was a directed “F* you” and received a stiff consequence.
Side note: As soon as that student came to me later that same day with a written apology note and a sincere verbal apology, I lifted the UFN ban and kept the 1-week ban for the forged pass. He didn’t forge a pass to me again and he didn’t swear at me again.
Therefore, I think that teachers need to be cognizant of our students’ language. Students, especially high school students, do swear. They swear around their friends and are still learning to control their language. When a student slips up, our first step should be to guide them back. As with all behavior, if it is a consistent issue, then we need back up in the form of parents/guardians, school deans, etc.
(Yes, I have considered swear jars, but it might encourage “paying to swear.”)