Sunday, September 26, 2010

Give Respect, Get Respect

“Why do you say ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘yes sir’ to us?”  The student looked puzzled as she asked me the question.  Several interested faces turned toward me, curiosity knitting their brows.  I smiled warmly and answered, “I do that to show you respect, just like you show me respect.  I can’t expect you to show me genuine respect if I don’t treat you respectfully in return.”  The students considered the comment for a moment, and then nodded in agreement. 

It all begins the first day of school.  I teach my students to answer questions by standing up, addressing me (or whoever is teaching) by name, and giving their answer in a complete sentence.  This helps build a respectful atmosphere in the classroom.  It also gets students in the habit of speaking in complete sentences, which then transfers (hopefully) into writing in complete sentences.  Everyone benefits. 

I want to point out that I do not demand that students stand, nor do I belittle those who forget.  If students are forgetting to answer properly, I simply wait for one to remember and then send that student to the ‘treasure chest’.  (Sometimes I’ll even send the next few to the pencil jar for good measure.) There are those who are always looking for a way to the treasure chest… and they NEVER forget.  Once that first student remembers, the rest will follow suit without being told.  After a few weeks, students rarely forget.

I do realize there are teachers who demand respect from their students without showing respect in return.  However, I don’t believe we can create a safe and secure learning environment without an atmosphere of mutual respect.  I want my students to feel secure enough to take chances, make guesses, and yes… even make mistakes.  Meaningful learning cannot take place if students are afraid of the teacher! 

Now my students are beginning to say, “Yes ma’am” and “No ma’am” to me.  I didn’t ask them to do that.  I simply modeled the behavior.   Since kids tend to do what we do rather than what we say, doesn’t it make sense to show your students respect as well?  Wouldn’t you rather a student ask you, “Why do you say ‘yes ma’am’ to me?” instead of, “Why are you so mean?”  Show your students respect if you would like genuine respect in return.  Your classroom will be a better place!

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  1. I like this! I feel we are getting away from teaching kids how to behave. We need to show students different places have different expected behaviors. Nice Job

  2. This post reminds me of something one of my college professors would say to us, "You get what you give".


  3. Fantastic post, I have to do a lot of things like this with my autistic son, but I think a lot of kids benefit from this kind of instruction. It isn't just ordering them to do as their told, it's explaining to them why we use certain social rituals and demonstrating their effects. It'll make them better people in the long run, love your blog x

  4. This is a great post to have. I agree that when teaching you have to give respect in order to earn it. As a high school teacher, I need to have better patience with my students in order to have a positive environment.

  5. That puts it succinctly Tech... I like that.

    Thank you Eleanor. I hadn't really thought of the application for autism, thank you for the comment.

    You're right Sarah, it really does make for a more positive environment.

  6. On a more basic level, what you're talking about is modeling. We need to model the way we want our students to behave, to approach learning, to interact with others. In short, we need to be the model adults we want them to be one day.