Disrespectful, Sensitive Children

LaToya R Jefferson-James
6 min readJan 3, 2024

I have never been a professor to complain about what my students do not know. However, their behavior has grown worse over the years.

I am not a complaining professor. In general, I do not perform long soliloquies about how ours students are completely ignorant and America is circling the drain because an 18-year-old does not understand our civic processes. If we have a twice impeached president boldly running for office with plenty of support, I can say that I don’t understand our civic processes, either. And while students’ ignorance of history from the 1990s tends to annoy me, it does not depress me into paralysis.

As a professor, I am a teacher who practices what she teaches. I teach writing, so I write. I teach literature, so I read. Sometimes, I write about what I read and give teacherly advice to others who may want to share what they read with the students. Seriously, I do. Let me self-promote as an example:

Amazon.com: New Criticism and Pedagogical Directions for Contemporary Black Women Writers: 9781793606709: Jefferson-James, LaToya, Adjibodou, Venise Nichole, Davis, Cynthia, Dente, Shahara’Tova, Gibson, Ebony, Lockhart, Lana N., McCray, Carissa, Montesano, Michael C., Montgomery, Georgene Bess, Mustafa, Linda Jummai, Schmidt, Anna, Smith, R. Nicole, Smith-Spears, RaShell R., Wade, Jasmine, Warren, Nagueyalti, Werbanowska, Marta: Books

Book cover for teacherly advice essays

Actually, this is a twin.

Aside from shameless self-promotion, I have a purpose for including this picture.

As a professor, I realize that if students knew it all coming into college, I would not have a job. Teaching students information and how they think about the information that they receive (not what to think, but to think, period) is kind of my job. It is certainly the job of all professors who also teach general education. Why complain about the students not knowing when one of the reasons for a university system at all is to enlighten students (and the surrounding community) by making information accessible. This is especially true of the undergraduate college: we deliver content knowledge.

Furthermore, I never engaged in the useless debates about trigger warnings. I do not feel that trigger warnings impinge on my academic freedom. As a person who was once a child, a sensitive child, and a sensitive teenager, I am sensitive to my students’ sensitivities. Yes, I deliver trigger warnings: I do not know who has been raped, molested or harassed in my classroom. I do not know who has a parent on drugs. I do not know who is in therapy because they were used in pawns in a very nasty divorce. I do not consider my students “weak” or “demanding,” because they choose to guard their minds.

Sometimes, I cringe at my colleagues’ remarks about students and their focus on mental well being. Given the dysfunctionality of the American family, I see no harm in this. Moreover, I am jaded by conservatives’ push to make a boogeyman of “Wokeness” and how some of my colleagues have condescendingly added fuel to their book-burning, willed-ignorance fire. Before we had the word, “woke,” we had gender and ethnic studies classes in Humanities Departments across America, and they have been under attack for over 30 years.

Sadly, many of the professors on this list are overworked, underappreciated liberal arts professors. To add more work and stress to the insult, some liberal arts professors at small colleges are simultaneously general education professors who must teach basic content to seminar classes with over 100 students, construct lectures, and grade a gazillion papers. Conservative commentators may have millions as part of their listening audience, but they don’t grade papers.

Dear Reader, that was a very long lead-in for me to say this: I am about to complain about my students. I am tired of the disrespectful, yet sensitive student. I know that it has been a long time since I posted to my professor’s blog, and that is with good reason. Last semester, I was neck-deep in freshmen who came to class when they wanted, never put down their cell phones, and complained against me to the administration when I gave them Fs for using Artificial Intelligence on their opinion pieces.

One day, I was teaching an Exemplification/Illustration paper to my Composition 101 class. Personally, I love this paper. It is the first paper which goes beyond the basic 5-paragraph (introduction, at least 3 supporting body paragraphs, and a conclusion) structured college essay. It is the first time when students get to flex those critical thinking muscles, go through all stages of the writing process (invention, planning, drafting, revising, and publishing), and produce something of real substance.

Reader, I had my module all lined up: we would start with invention until we develop a thesis statement, move to a scratch outline, draft, then revise. I had examples and an extra handout from an external website.

Exemplification — ENG 101 OER — DeWitt Library Subject Guides at SUNY Ulster

Now, I am no rookie instructor. I have been teaching at the higher education level since 2006. With that much experience (and age) on the students, I know that students are not going to be as excited about learning a new rhetorical writing strategy as I am. As a freshman, this is all new to students and they do not even understand that they will need it in another class. Students do not understand (nor should they. They are not pedagogical experts) that the annoying paper strategies that we give them in our composition classes will last them throughout their careers. Everywhere they go, if writing is required, they will use one of these patterns. This is why many of us love our beloved Patterns textbook:

As I was teaching this very important paper, I noticed that over half my class was missing. My class started at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday/Thursday. All semester long, if students came at all, they came around 10:00–10:15. I found myself constantly asking them to be quiet. They would not stop texting. One day, I looked up, and my whole class looked like this:

Photo by Zoe Holling on Unsplash

And I am not a podium professor. I walk around. It did not matter if I were standing at the smart tv or walking around, students went right on texting and checking things…unless it were an email blast from me: they never seemed to check or read those. As a matter of fact, I started giving extra credit for this question: “what did my last email to you say?”

One day, a student answered the phone in class. I stopped teaching, packed up my things, and left. I was turned in to the administration. And this was after a student sent me a rant about how she didn’t understand my teaching and that my assignments are due at 11:59 p.m. when she was asleep.

I have a question of Generation X and Millennial parents? Are we raising students who can dish it out but can’t take it? In nice, polite terms I am asking: are we raising disrespectful children who live without consequences, but are overly-sensitive to criticism? Are we raising entitled, perpetual adolescents who do not know their social security numbers? If this is how we’re going to raise our children — to dish it always and take it never — we’re raising a generation of narcissists.

This post has gone on rather long, Dear Reader. I will be back again soon. With the next post, I’m going to talk about student shenanigans that were just outrageous!



LaToya R Jefferson-James

LaToya Jefferson-James has a Ph.D. in literature. Welcome! The professor is in! Come in and stay a spell. Let’s discuss and learn from one another.