Are You More Professional Than a 5th Grader?

As many of you are aware, not only am I a banker for the fifth-largest bank in the United States, but I’m also a student at Rockford College studying Elementary Education. As part of my requirement for the state of Illinois, I must spend 60 hours a semester in an actual elementary classroom to get experience to prepare me for student teaching. After all of the background checks and fingerprinting, I was placed in Mrs. Dye’s 5th grade class at Summerdale Elementary School here in Rockford.

Two weeks ago was my first day at the school, and I walked in with no idea of what to expect. The last time I was in a 5th grade classroom was when I was a student at a private school in Whitewater, Wisconsin. I was told horror stories about the behavior of the kids at Summerdale, so I was prepared for the worst. I was also told that Mrs. Dye was quite the disciplinarian, which I was actually looking forward to experiencing to learn how to properly manage the classroom. What I experienced not only surprised me, but also made me think about the differences in behavior between 5th graders and adults that I deal with on a daily basis.

Outside of a few issues with the kids talking out of turn, the kids were extremely well-behaved. They were trained to be respectful to their teacher and even to me (I still can’t get used to be called “Mr. Clark”). They lined up when they were told to, they did minor tasks in the classroom when instructed, and responded properly when asked a question.

Due to my work schedule, I’m only able to attend this class for the morning, and must go back to my branch to finish up the afternoon. After leaving a very pleasant atmosphere at Summerdale, I was borderline depressed at the attitude of supposed “grown-up’s” who sat at my desk the rest of the day. Customers demanded services we don’t provide, used profanity, and were flat out rude on a regular basis. Why is it that so many adults lose this respectful attitude by the time they reach adulthood? You would think that adults would act like adults, but I’m finding that many of the “kids” that many people complain about in regards to behavior are better behaved than the ones who are complaining about them.

Needless to say, I was having a more enjoyable work experience with children. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Shouldn’t I be dying to get back to reality where people act mature?

I challenge each and every one of you to take a moment to look at yourself and the way you present yourself not only in your workplace, but also when you are on the other side of the desk as a customer. In most cases, the person assisting you is more of an expert on their field than you are and deserve a level of respect for the time they’ve put in their career. Do you think any of those 5th graders refuse to listen to Mrs. Dye’s instruction on long division because they feel that they understand it better than she does despite her 17 years of experience teaching it? Why does that behavior suddenly become acceptable in the adult world?

Professionalism doesn’t mean just in your workplace; it also means being professional in your every day life. This doesn’t mean that we can’t have fun and be silly (if you’ve ever met me, you’ll know I have no shame), but it does mean that every person we meet should be dealt with a certain level of respect. This mentality of being better than others is offensive and counter-productive, when letting the professional take over or at least listening and adhering to their advice will make much more sense in the long run.


~ by Scott L. Clark on October 18, 2010.

6 Responses to “Are You More Professional Than a 5th Grader?”

  1. Well written Scott! I love it. I agree whole heartedly!! 🙂

  2. Great article, Scott! Kinda jealous that you get to teach little kids 🙂

  3. So true! I often think that my niece and nephews have better manner than most adults I know.

  4. Very well said…..You are going to be the teacher all the kids hear about and want to be in your class…and you cutting up or being silly??? Don’t think I have seen that side of you…
    “Can I get you a drink while you play the slots? I just need your sail & sign card please.”

  5. Scott, you make an excellent point! Thanks for the great post/reminder. I’m so glad you’re enjoying student teaching, too!

  6. Very very well written and a very excellent suggestion to all of us adults out there!

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