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What is the ‘mewing’ trend? Why teachers are hitting back at classroom craze

Students using the viral ‘mewing’ trend are being ‘disrespectful’ in the classroom, according to teachers on TikTok

Amber Raiken
New York
Tuesday 19 March 2024 06:51 GMT
Related: Teacher Provides Students With Hygiene Supplies

The “mewing” trend has risen in popularity on social media, but teachers are now being vocal about why they don’t approve of this behaviour.

The method - which is named after Professor John Mew - involves flattening the tongue against the roof of your mouth to purportly lift the jawline and alleviate jaw and mouth muscle pain, according to Heathline. However, the American Association of Orthodontists has noted that “changing tongue placement isn’t enough to magically correct misaligned teeth, reshape your jawline, and prevent the need for orthodontic treatment”.

Now, teachers have shared that there is another aspect related to the term “mewing” that has nothing to do with reshaping your jawline. In a video posted to TikTok last month by Teresa Newman, she pointed out that when her students are “mewing”, they put their finger over their mouth before sliding their finger down their jawline, as a way of indicating that they don’t want to answer a question.

According to Newman, this gesture is students’ way of signalling that they “don’t care” about what their peers and teachers have to say, or that they’re “too busy being silent” because they’re doing the “mewing” technique. She went on to express why she doesn’t approve of the mewing trend in her school.

“The problem that I have with mewing in the classroom and at school is that kids are using it as a way to be disrespectful to their teachers, without their teachers understanding what it is they’re doing,” she said. “It’s a non-verbal gesture. It doesn’t really signify anything specific unless you know exactly what it means and why they’re doing it.”

After noting that the trend allows students to “avoid responding” to what the teacher has to say, Newman claimed that the adult in the room then “looks clueless,” since they don’t understand the gesture. She went on to detail how the trend negatively affects the way that children learn and treat others.

“It’s a power on the part for the kid. It’s a way for them to not have to take accountability for things that are being asked of them. It’s a way for them to not have to participate in class,” she continued. “If [the teacher] tries to question the gesture, if they try to respond in some way to stop the gesture from happening again, there’s really no way to prove that the gesture in and of itself is disrespectful or harmful.”

Newman claimed that children would find it “funny” if they saw any of their peers doing the gesture to the teachers. While students may regard the trend as “a joke,” she believes that they’re well aware of the other meanings behind it.

“They absolutely understand how dismissive and disrespectful [the gesture] is to the person who’s trying to engage with them, especially in a learning environment,” she added. “They also understand how hurtful it can be.”

Newman further emphasised how the trend is negatively affecting teachers, given how much time and energy they put into making lessons for their students.

“All we do is try so hard to engage our students in our lessons and get them involved in class,” she added. “For something like this to come along and basically be made into this nonchalant, ‘Oh we’re just playing around, we’re just having fun.’ But in reality, the play and the fun is really hurtful. It’s really disruptive to the learning environment as well.”

The teacher acknowledged that while she’s not asking children to “take everything in their lives seriously,” that doesn’t change how hurtful the “mewing” gesture can be toward teachers.

“When someone walks in the classroom and really sincerely asks them genuine questions, engages them in lessons, engages them in activities, makes them think critically, and all [students] have in response is something stupid like this,” she said, making the gesture. “It should piss teachers off.”

The video has quickly gone viral, with more than six million views. In the comments, many people went on to agree with Newman’s thoughts about the “mewing” trend and how it is disrespectful towards teachers.

“‘Mewing will not be on the test’ would be one quip throughout the lesson I’d use tbh,” one person wrote.

“Mewing is 100 per cent disrespectful and if administrators are allowing this they are the problem,” another added.

“Things like this mewing trend are the reason why teachers are leaving their jobs,” a third wrote. “The disrespect students and parents have for teachers is so sad.”

The Independent has contacted Newman for comment.

Newman isn’t the first teacher to call out the “mewing” trend. Philip Linsday, a special education teacher, shared a recent video to TikTok explaining how teenage students  – specifically boys – have done the gesture when they don’t want to answer his questions.

He then shared his advice on how to respond to students who do the gesture, explaining: “You can basically hit them with the, ‘You can mew on your own time, answer my question.’”

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