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C.M. Corner: Respect – The Two Way Street

There are a million different factors that play into a class’s behavior.  One of the biggest factors that comes into play is respect.  We often look at a self-centric view of respect when we are dealing with difficult students and situations; they’re behavior is disrespectful to me.  Respect is defined as “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person” or “to show regard or consideration for” by dictionary.com.  I like to think of it in terms of value.  Because we are the staff member in the room, we expect students to value our authority and experience.  Students, however, feel the same need to be valued.  To be truly effective in our classrooms, we need to promote an environment of respect that each person in that class makes an impact and adds to the experience of the day.  It needs to be a two-way street.  Some things may look different depending upon the position you are in, teaching for a day or two, on a long-term assignment, working as a paraprofessional.  But when our students don’t respect us, we become very aware through their behavior.  Here are some core things that we can use to promote an environment of respect.

  1. Know your relationship to the students and stick to those boundaries.  You are the staff member in the classroom and they are the students.  Your role is not their best friend, their parent or their counselor.  You are there to help them continue their educational experience, which does require you to build relationship with your students.  So, yes, get to know something about them and let them know about you, but make sure that the content and questions stay professional.  It’s ok to share that you love animals or previously worked as an engineer.  It’s also ok to ask them if they are having a good day or not.  However, refrain from asking probing questions about their personal life.  If they share/volunteer that information, that is the student’s choice, but don’t ask for them to share it. 
  2. Establish a safe environment.  In particular with a substitute, students feel a bit more apprehensive because this is a change to their classroom culture and can affect the students to varying degrees.  Let your student(s) know the expectations for conduct that day and hold both yourself and the students to them.  Whether stated in detail or through a brief statement, also make sure your topics of conversation are appropriate.  Topics that make students uncomfortable or frightened, as well as offensive, derogatory comments and negative criticism, make the class unsafe.  This will cause your students to misbehave.  If those expectations are violated, then respond appropriately with the established consequences.
  3. Focus on the positive actions and try to keep them “anonymous”.  Praise statements are an effective way to manage various types of classroom misbehavior.  It is most effective when it is not attached to a person or their value.  Statements like “Johnny is a good boy because he is working quietly on his assignment instead of talking with his neighbors,” attach personal value to the behavior.  If you are working quietly on your assignment you are good, but if not you are bad.  It also can put the class in contention with each other as Johnny is good and I am not.  Instead use “Thank you to those who are working quietly on their assignments.”  You are still drawing attention to the positive behavior, but it is no longer drawing attention only to Johnny or assigning value to a person due to their behavior.

If we communicate to our students that we respect and value them, they will respect us more and classroom management will become much easier.  And while these are important to maintain in any position, it is ever more important that we implement and continue this practice.  With students, staff and our own stress, we need to intentionally build a culture of respect in our classrooms and positions.  Do you have any ways that you establish this type of environment?  We would love to hear it.  Feel free to send along any tips or strategies to training@teachersoncall.com!



"respect". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 27 Apr. 2018. <Dictionary.com http://www.dictionary.com/browse/respect>.