10 ways to earn your students’ respect…

I loved the discussion that grew out of my ‘10 things teachers should UNlearn‘ post. One of the points which raised problems for some people was my suggestion that students are not obliged to respect teachers.  I do think mutual respect between any human beings is important and I understand that there might be differing cultural expectations when it comes to respecting teachers. But respect is not an unconditional right.

10 ways to earn your students’ respect… 

1. Respect your students.

Don’t talk down to students. Model mutual respect.  Don’t have double standards. Give what you’d like to get back. Know every child’s story and treat each as an individual. Cater for different preferences, interests, strengths and weaknesses. Ensure students understand the reasons for your expectations.

2. Have a class agreement, not top-down rules.

Ask what helps them learn and what hinders learning. Use that as a basis for establishing an essential agreement as to how the class will run and what behaviours will be evident. Have everyone sign it. Put it up on the wall. Refer to it constantly.

3.  Be part of the learning community.

Encourage kids to take ownership of their learning. Be an inquirer too. Don’t pretend to know all the answers. Learn with and from your students. Divide your groups in a variety of random ways, so that everyone learns to work with different people, including you.

4. Acknowledge their physical needs.

Allow students to drink water and even to eat if they hungry. Don’t try and control when they go to the toilet. (If your classes are engaging, they will only go when they need to.) Provide opportunities for standing up and moving around during learning.

5. Be fair and reasonable.

Don’t show favouritism.  Expect everyone to stick to the agreement. Don’t allow put-downs between students. Accept legitimate excuses and even some that might not be. If the homework comes a day late because they had something else to do, it’s not the end of the world.

6. Have a sense of humour.

Laugh with your students but never at them. Laugh at yourself. Show firm disapproval if they laugh at each other.  Don’t take school too seriously. Take learning seriously, but make learning fun too.

7.  Provide  a secure learning space.

Provide opportunities for risk-taking in learning. Create a safe environment where learners don’t fear failure. Be supportive of creative thinking and new ways of doing things. Make every student feel validated.

8. Be sincere.

Talk to students in a normal tone, irrespective of their age.  Students see through adults who aren’t sincere very quickly. Don’t pretend.   Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Show that you care… but only if you do. (If you don’t, why are you a teacher?)

9. Be human.

Acknowledge when you’re in the wrong. Apologise when you make a mistake. Admit you’re impatient because you’re tired today.

10. Let go.

Don’t be in charge of every situation.  Ask yourself  ‘Is it important?‘ before you react. Don’t make all the decisions. Provide opportunities for choice. Show that you value initiative above compliance.

10 (ways) series…


29 thoughts on “10 ways to earn your students’ respect…

  1. I too loved the discussion that grew out of my ‘10 things teachers should UNlearn‘ post. I was a big contributor to that “respect dialogue” you mentioned, as I cannot stress enough to new teachers how crucial respect is.

    A huge problem with new teachers is they mistake respect with friendship.


    To illustrate this point, if my friend tells me to “shut up,” I might slug him on the arm and tell HIM to “shut up.” However, if my student tells me to shut up, he or she knows there will be immediate consequences for disrespect.

    Yes, follow all 10 bits of sage advice on the list above, but DO NOT blend the lines of TEACHER/ student, or the necessary respect will be impossible to maintain.

    If you are interested in a more in-depth explanation or discussion of this idea check out my post on the topic at http://wp.me/s11oWO-398

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great list but I don’t see anything there about learning. Teachers who engage their students through embedding learning in contexts that are authentic to them, have meaningful and hopefully applicable outcomes and require deep learning and higher order thinking, combined with the belief that each and very students can achieve, will earn life-long (or even longer) respect. I still hear my 85 year old Dad talk about teachers he respected and why he respected them


  3. Thanks for the comment! You’re right of course, I totally agree with everything you say. I write so much about learning that I didn’t even notice! In my head, all my posts stand together… I forget that there might be people who just read one post and so they don’t see it in the context of everything else I write.
    #11. See Robyn’s comment above!


  4. A lot of it depends on what example you set. Yes, we need to show respect for students if we expect it in return, but we also need to show how we as teachers respect other teachers. This can be done I a number of ways. As professionals we don’t always get along with our colleagues but we should show some level of respect. Students will pick up on snyde remarks or a rolling of the eyes, or any other form of disapproval/disrespect. We can’t expect students to be respectful in another’s classroom if you yourself don’t show any respect for that teacher. I think that it also teaches another important message–you don’t have to “like” everyone, but you can certainly get along with (most) everyone. Respect, at least for me, is something has to be modeled. I learned respect from watching how my dad and mom treated others. I learned respect from teachers that treated me as a person and not a subordinate. We can talk all we want to the kids (especially younger grades) about what respect looks like, but it means very little until they actually see it.


  5. I loved the list and I think you were dead on in many of the things you mentioned. Too often teachers get into a power struggle with his/her students because after all they are the teacher. They may win that battle but they have lost the war because they have lost the respect of that student and possibly the class for a long time. another things teachers forget and sometimes students as well is that the teacher needs to be fair but fair doesn’t always mean equal.
    I would also agree with Jeremy’s comment that one important factor in the issue of respect is that teachers need to be role models and model respect for their students by the way they interact with others.
    Thanks for the post


  6. Great list, Edna. Thank you so much for everything you post. Jeremy wrote that he “learned respect from watching how my (his) dad and mom treated others. That makes me think of my dad who always said – “you are no better than anyone else and nobody else is better than you. This is a great creed to live by, when thinking about respect..both in terms of respecting students, peers and ourselves.


  7. Great post.
    Even though reading these I thought, yes I knew that, it’s so good to read these from time to time, its easy to forget some of these tips when you get bogged down in the middle of term, with reports and programs etc etc.
    Thanks for reminding me!


  8. I loved this post. As Judith commented- we do need to be reminded of these points as teachers from time to time. My how schooling has changed from my days as a student. I just hope children today realize how wonderful their learning environments can be compared to rigid and stringent ways of the past.


  9. So right on Edna. I am in the camp that teachers should automatically assume that a child will respect them because they said so. I’m not sure that can even be called respect, more likely it is fear. True respect is mutual between both parties who care about each other and feel safe in that respectful relationship. Great 10 list!


  10. Great post. My favorite is #9. I try to be as real and human as possible.

    The other day during circle time, one of my K students told me, “I feel mad.” I eventually got the reason- he was mad because he wanted to stay home that day with his mom. I told him, “You know Alan, I was mad this morning too. I wanted to stay home with my dog. But here we are.” His face lit up. I told the truth and may have hooked him for the year!

    #9 Be human. Never be “perfect.” Kids hate “perfect.” “Perfect” creates anxiety, not respect.


  11. Excellent! Without respect, there is no way you will be able to reach your students. All the training in the world won’t help you if your kids don’t respect you. This is great advice for new teachers and veteran teachers alike. I’ve made it one the Power Posts on my site.
    Thank you,


  12. Hi, this post is absolutely important for any teacher willing to be respected in and outside his/her classroom. But i would like to ask you a question because where we’re teaching we’ve about 80 even 90 students in a single classroom and it’s not that easy to deal with them all and bring your lessons to a successful understanding. What do would you tell about who to show love and respect to all those students at the same tim? Thanks


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