We’ve been having a lot of conversations about respect at schools this month. Educators are telling us that students don’t “respect” them. When we drill down a little further, the story is that students are not obeying adults. Are respect and obedience the same thing? We don’t think so! Interestingly, one of the most common complaints from students who have been sent to the office for misbehavior is, “My teacher didn’t respect me.”
Obedience means following the directions of an authority figure. The motivation is often based on fear. The result is compliance.
Respect means showing consideration for the rights, feelings, and actions of another, holding the other person in high regard. The motivation is high regard for the other person whether he or she is an authority figure or not. The result is cooperation. When a respectful relationship is built, the adult has influence and most young people will cooperate.
Tools for growing respect in students:
- Teach and model self-regulation skills A lot of behavior that appears to be disrespectful is actually a result of the student not being able to regulate his or her behavior. Something is happening that has put their nervous system partly into a survival mode, and they do not have instant access to the appropriate response –even though when they are calm they know what they “should do”. Adults are the same way. They are rarely disrespectful “on purpose.”
- Model respect As adults we can model respect in our actions toward others, young and old. That can be as simple as using manners and saying, “Please” or “Thank you.” It can also look like being calm, patient and listening to both sides of a story when students complain.
- Ask instead of tell Adults model respect and teach responsibility when they ask students how to behave instead of telling. “What should our line look like right now? What can you do to help it look that way?” “What is the voice level we agreed on for our reading time?” “Where does the trash belong after you are done with your lunch?”
- Connect before you correct Acknowledging and validating a students feelings before you ask him or her to do something different allows the student to feel felt and invites cooperation.
- Listen All human beings long to be seen and heard. Listening is one of the best ways to build relationships with students and grow the kind of cooperation you need.