hema’s sphere

i swear..

Posted by hema on May 9, 2007

if i hear one more student swearing, i swear i am going to go crazy.

i feel like i am fighting a losing battle.

why do teenagers feel the need to swear so much?

this issue has been bugging me for a while now, because if you let the standards slip, then swearing gradually creeps into your classroom without you realising it. the students know i have a “thing” about swearing. of course, most teachers do but it’s also a personal thing. i mean, what if i end up repeating some of the things that come out of their mouths 😦

it’s got to the stage now where one lesson i said “there is only one rule for this lesson, no swearing” and they still couldn’t manage it. scary. i don’t know what frightens me more, the fact that they are not capable of doing it, or the fact that they don’t think there is anything wrong with it. some comments include:

“they’re just words, they don’t mean anything” (erm.. yes they do, if you want to get into the etymology of it)

“we looked at swearing in that poem, didn’t we? how is that different” (er.. because it is about context)

“everyone else does it. even teachers do it” (erm.. have you ever heard me swear? this was greeted with “he he imagine hema swearing” hee–y)

the main problems i am having are with “that” class (and those of you who teach will know what i mean, because everyone has “that class”) and to be fair on them, they do it in what they see as informal stages of the lesson, eg at the start before i have “started” the lesson and that is just how they talk to each other, eg

“did you see that *** film yesterday, it was ***** fantastic.”

but more recently:

me: “why did you walk out of janet’s lesson?
student: because she is a **** *****
(why do my student’s think they can talk like that in front of me?)

me: ok, you wouldn’t use those words at home so don’t use them in front of me”
student: are you kidding me, you should see some of the words my mum uses if you think that’s bad.

ouch (really?) maybe that’s my problem. am i imposing my own personal velues on the students?
but i’m not telling them to stop swearing. i don’t think anyone could ever do that. just not in front of me. and these kids need to know when it is not acceptable not to use these words. isn’t that one of the things that education is supposed to be about? giving them access to language they can use in different circumstances. what if one of them “accidentally” swore in an interview situation?


at least noone has ever sworn at me, because i have heard of horror stories of that happening. although to see things from the students perspective (because i always try to do that) they only really swear at teachers if they are embarrassed in front of the class and have to “redeem” themselves in front of their peers.

one of the only two times i have thrown a student out of my class this year was when i told him not to swear and he answered:

“what’s your ****** problem with my ***** swearing”.

(i think he was trying to be funny)

so, am i being too uptight with this? or should i stubbornly persevere with my one man (so it seems!) battle to stop all 17 year olds from swearing?


12 Responses to “i swear..”

  1. iMuslim said

    You’re not being too harsh, at all. Swearing is a nasty habit, and it has become too commonplace in public spaces, especially with teenagers. People have always been swearing, but i think they have been more ‘private’ with it; keeping it to behind closed doors, with friends, etc. Now if you get on a bus at home-time, with the school kids, you’ll hear four Fs, and ten other unmentionables, before the doors of the bus even close!

    So no, you’re not being too harsh by trying to keep some of the airspace in this country, free of verbal pollution.

    Cutting their filthy tongues out of their heads, with a blunt, rusty pen-knife… now, that would be harsh.


  2. Anonymous said

    im 17 and i despise swearing – but thats thanks to an islamic upbringing. You also need to take into account the backgrounds of these kids, their social groups and so on. I think swearing is one of the many social ills we face – and thw crumbling family is highly responsible.

  3. Unique Muslimah said

    You might like to watch this show (saw it on the internet):



    It will be on next week for UK viewers.

    lol, enjoy watching it =)

  4. Unique Muslimah said


    didn’t come up the first time

  5. Knowledgeseeeker said

    I think teeneager swear because its the done thing, the in thing. Sometimes when they want to emphasise something they will use foul langauge. Its not all down to teenagers like one of your pupils have said his/her mother also use it and if our role models ie our parents speak in such a disgusting manner then children will pick it up. Its easy to do mimic bad behaviour then to do what its good. In my opinion swearing is for people who have no vocabulary but then again i know some people who are far more intelligent than me, swear.

  6. Saabirah said

    Swearing – ugghhh.

    Your post reminded me of a story that happened not very long ago:

    Me, Umm Maymo, Maymo and Abu Maymo were on a late train to London; it was on the way to AlKauthar’s The Real Deal course. A large group of adults also got on, a bit loud, smartly dressed, as though they were returning from a business conference or something and were travelling back home to London (they had London acccents). So Umm Maymo’s sitting next to me and her hubby and baby are in the seat in front of us. The group are chatting loudly and they’re vulgar, really disgusting, effing and jeffing, referring to parts of the human anatomy in non-scientific terms. So we tried to ignore it til a woman said something really filthy and I said firmly but politely (I CAN be assertive when I’m pushed you see), “Excuse me, this is a public place, can you mind your language please?” And she replies, “Well get a taxi then!” And I said, “No, I paid for my ticket and I don’t have to hear that language.” And she said, “Well I paid for my ticket too!” Very adult-like. It sounded like the others in her group got embarassed and told her to shush up! Well they didn’t stop swearing completely – they don’t even realise they’re doing it, I don’t think – but it wasn’t as bad. She stopped picking on me and started on her sister who’d shaken her head at her in embarassment!

    I think you just have to persevere and keep reminding them that you won’t tolerate swearing. Slowly but surely they’ll remember and even if they do continue swearing everywhere else, they’ll know for an hour or so they have to watch it. Don’t give in.

  7. hema said

    unique thank you, i’ve had a look and the programme sounds like exactly what i need. actually, i’m going to tape it and show some in tutorial if it’s appropriate.

    imuslim-“Cutting their filthy tongues out of their heads, with a blunt, rusty pen-knife… now, that would be harsh”
    ouch:) i can’t help thinking, weren’t we like that at their age? (by “we” i of course mean you lot, i was always a goody two shoes he he)

    seriously though, i think the problem is a lot worse down south. my kids just think they’re tough, but city kids actually are! i guess it’s what you need to do to survive

    and it always seems worse on public transport for some reason.
    (saabirah, did that woman really expect you to get a taxi all the way to london??)

    and don’t worry, i’m not giving in. infact, because it was on my mind today, i was on the lookout for offenders, and didn’t hear anything! i also did a lesson on swearing with AS- they had to rewrite a piece for a teenage magazine convincing teenagers not to swear! (what it’s relevant to the syllabus!) and it bought up some interesting discussions.

    “You also need to take into account the backgrounds of these kids”
    this is so true, like knowledge seeker said, if there parents are doing it, then the kids are going to emulate that.
    which is why i don’t let my muslim kids get away with it, especially the girls. i don’t care if that’s double standards, I KNOW they have not been brought up like that.

    knowledge seeker, annoymous, whoever you are! it’s good to see you on here. thanks for stopping by

  8. 'liya said

    In The Tempest there’s a line that goes something along the lines of ‘you taught me language and all I learned from it was how to swear’ – my students and I spent about half an hour discussing it yesterday – of course they also became really silly and our discussion got to the point of blaming the world for teaching them how to speak.. whereas is they didn’t know how to speak, they wouldn’t know how to swear (a dumb argument which I made clear to them lol).

    My basic rule is I don’t care what kind of language they use, I don’t care what they say, I only care HOW they use it – but my situation is different from yours, in public schools here you can get suspended if a teacher hears you swear, it’s part of a Zero tolerance rule… so not many students swear in front of teachers, of course I have my own rule mentioned above so I’m not one of those teachers (which maybe I should be?) .. anyways, I was asking a friend about the difference between public schools here and State schools in the UK and she said that most people aim to send their kids to grammar schools (is that right?) so students who are leftover are lumped in State schools – which would mean more swearing because of their backgrounds, whereas here most parents don’t want to send their kids to private schools but to public schools because public schools are higher regarded.

    Maybe I should just come to the UK to check things out lol.

  9. 'liya said

    Oh yeah,

    P.s Anonymous, “thats thanks to an islamic upbringing” – no religion strives for swearing, so if you’ve had a very Christian or Jewish upbringing (or any other religion for that matter) then yeah…!

  10. Saabirah said

    Can I just clarify – public school=private school in the UK but in the U.S it means state school.

  11. hema said

    liya: leeeeeeyaa

    “My basic rule is I don’t care what kind of language they use, I don’t care what they say, I only care HOW they use it”

    hhm that’s interesting, and i know a lot of teachers that feel the same way (ie will turn a blind eye as long as the students are not searing AT somone it an offensive way, which rarely happens i have to say) but i have to disagree with you here. i think the students need to be taught that swearing is not something they should used in the casual way that they use it at the moment, even if they hear it all the time at home and hanging out with friends, they need to be taught it’s not accpetable in some spaces.
    i don’t think i’d want to enforce a zero tolerance policy though, that’s not solving the problem. the students need to be taught why it’s wrong. i want them to be able to see it for themselves.

    “no religion strives for swearing, so if you’ve had a very Christian or Jewish upbringing..”

    most of the students we deal with don’t have any religious upbringing, but actually the issue has nothing to do with religion. most parents (i hope) would want us to enforce basic manners and appropriate language use.

  12. 'liya said

    Sorry I just had issue with Anonymous’ comment about the Islamic upbringing because it applies to ALL religions and to NO any religion at all as you pointed out.

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