Respect is essential to maintaining a productive classroom, but I think we so often make assumptions about what kids know and understand about the meaning of respect.
Just like with love, my respect for my students must be consistent and honest. A respectful classroom means keeping personal matters such as discipline and academic progress, private.
This is why I do not have a behavior chart, or class dojo, or a bulletin board showing who knows their math facts.
Not to say we don’t celebrate successes and discuss difficulties as a whole group, we do! But keeping private things private helps to maintain a child’s dignity.
I truly believe that preserving a child’s dignity is essential to developing a caring culture of mutual respect.
A respectful classroom environment does not tally up every right or wrong move a kid makes. I don’t want my principal to do that to me! I want him to come chat with me if I screw up. In private. And come up with a solution for avoiding another screw up.
I want him to compliment me when I have done a good job. But I do not work hard to be good at my job just so I can collect a bunch of compliments from administration. I work hard because I like my job and I want to do well.
While I agree that kids need frequent positive reinforcement, I caution teachers to be careful how it’s given. If it’s clipped or punched or counted, it can become a means to an end as opposed to a way to meaningfully integrate positive behaviors.
I want kids to respect me, their peers, and our school space because they WANT to, not because they are avoiding a color change or attempting to earn a reward.
So to get that from students, I must value their contribution and their opinions.
I must model how to treat others in the way that I treat students and staff.
It means I honor my promises to them.
It means that I leave my snarky sarcasm in the teacher's lounge.
I treat them the way I want teachers to treat my own boys.
Children are perceptive little creatures - they know which teachers truly respect them.