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.