DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a middle school teacher, and although we are not beginning classes in person yet this year, I cannot stop thinking about something that always bugs me at the beginning of the school year.
Many of my students walk around campus with some type of earbuds in. It is an expectation of mine that when talking or listening, students take them out. This is because the other person involved cannot know whether the person with earbuds is listening to audio or to them.
I explain this to the students, and emphasize that it is an issue of showing respect to the person you are conversing with. They often fight back on this rule and insist that turning off the audio when conversing is enough.
Am I missing the mark on what’s important here? Do you think removing earbuds is something that shows respect or lack thereof?
GENTLE READER: These students will also probably try to convince you that they can listen while playing video games, texting their friends and playing with slime, but the optics are still rude.
Proper etiquette is so often shown through symbolism. Taking one’s cap off in school provides no practical purpose, but it shows reverence for the institution. Demanding that ear pieces be removed when talking to others is, Miss Manners assures you, entirely within your jurisdiction. You are the teacher. It is your duty (as well as the parents’) to teach your students respect. In fact, it is probably the most valuable and practical lesson they can learn.