rEmains in the
I cheated. I stole Aretha Franklin’s song of the century and morphed it into a standard in my class. The little ditty above was posted in my room every year as my classroom management policy.
One of the biggest shocks new teachers experience is that students do not automatically give respect. Teachers have to earn it. It’s similar to how we tell our students they have to earn an A; teachers don’t give A’s.
Here’s the core problem with my simple ditty. Trying to define “respect” is just as difficult as attempting to define the elusive “love.” Our experiences shape our definitions. If you ask a ten-year-old girl what “respect” means, you may get an answer you don’t like. You may hear that if her mother does not respect her dad, her mom is beaten You may hear from a twelve-year-old boy that he has to show respect to his mother by doing all the chores, including feeding his little siblings while she sleeps after working all night. You may hear from a thirteen-year-old girl gang member wannabe that she has to knife someone to earn respect. These answers come from all social-economic stratum. It’s overwhelming. How can we define it?
One of the most powerful activities we can do for our students is to ask them to define “respect” as an inquiry based activity. We should make it a cornerstone of our classrooms. What does it look like, sound like, and feel like? Finally, what will it mean in our classrooms? Because we have asked our students to think deeply and actively participate, the classroom climate will shift to a positive mindset
Then we have to model it for them. We cannot roll our eyes when the office interrupts with an announcement over the intercom. We cannot ignore the district’s policies for student uniform compliance. (Clearly, these reflect a portion of my own transgressions.)
Most importantly, we must treat our students with deep respect because of the enormous responsibility for which we signed a contract. It is our charge to provide a safe environment for learning. Respect that.
As Aretha would say, we need to make certain we are