I know that this will make me sound like a hopelessly outdated old grouch but I just have to ask: what's happening to people's manners nowadays? It seems like my students have no inkling whatsoever what it means to behave politely and courteously towards others. And they are only 10-15 years younger than I am.
Yesterday, for example, I had a student yawn continuously in my face during my entire lecture. I understand that yawning is uncontrollable, but why not cover your mouth while you are dying it? Or, at the very least, why not avoid sitting in the front row where your yawning will be especially visible. Every time my gaze alighted on this student, I'd see a barracuda-like mouth opened right in my face.
There is also this charming habit that students have of referring to one in the third person in their presence. "What did she say? Did she mention the exam? What does she wants us to do?" is always said in a very loud voice as if "she" weren't there at all and couldn't be asked directly.
Letting the door slam in front of a person's face is another activity many students practice on a regular basis. Often they seem to have no idea that it might make sense to hold the door for people walking behind them, especially if those people carry a huge stack of books and papers.
Interrupting people's conversations seems to be a completely acceptable practice for many. I might be talking to a student or a colleague in my office, when a student would barge in, plop their backpack in the middle of my desk, interrupt the conversation that is going on and launch into a recitation of what they need for me without as much as a word of greeting.
The strangest situation of all in what concerns student manners arose when I left the classroom for a couple of minutes during the break only to come back to see two students rummaging through my bag. I was brought up in the belief that another person's bags, pockets, and desk drawers are sacred and not to be opened under any conditions unless the owner's express permission has been obtained. "What on earth are you doing???" I asked students in a state of a complete shock. "Oh, we are trying to see if you still have those handouts from last week," they responded completely unfazed. And continued to rummage through my bag like it was the most normal activity in the world. That bag is very obviously my handbag where I carry my wallet, keys, and personal hygiene items, but such considerations seemed to be alien to these two students.
It also happened to me quite a few times that I would be standing in the hallway, talking to somebody with my bag over my shoulder, only to feel somebody tugging on the bag from behind. Every single time it would be a student trying to get a handout they forgot to request in class out of it or trying to stuff their homework into it.
As much as I don't like it, I still have to recognize that this complete lack of good manners is a lot more common in female students. Male students still hold the door for you, say "thank you", "please", and "could you?" They are much more likely to knock on one's office doors before they come in, and they never make loud comments about the teacher's appearance in her presence. I have no idea why this happens, but the difference is very visible. Is there some profound difference in the way boys and girls are brought up that denies many women any knowledge of what constitutes good manners?