Educational Philosophy

Developing Mutual Respect among Students and Teachers in a Classroom Environment



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Two tips that have been quite helpful in developing mutual respect between my students and myself are the explaining of roles and the right perspective on behavior. My experience has been with high school students and I'm not sure the following two points would translate to all age groups. However, I would argue that if you can foster respect in high school age students, you may be able to foster respect in any age group of students.

First is what I call the "swimming pool model" of explaining roles. Most students have been to a swimming pool with one or more lifeguards that may be in their early teens. When I'm at the pool, there may be someone that is 15 or 16 years of age that is in charge and telling me what to do. It matters not that I'm more than twice their age, or that I may have much more knowledge and experience than the lifeguard. The point is that they are in the "role" of supervisor at the pool. I need to obey and follow their instructions.

I then compare this to the classroom. There are some students I may not be able to convince I know more than they know. Other students may not accept at face value the old cliche: "Respect your elders." But as I explain roles in a way they are familiar with and make it neutral to age or knowledge, I have yet to have a student that can't grasp the concept.

The second concept I find helpful in promoting respect between both teacher and student is having students look at behavior as a way to act. The emphasis is on acting, using a Hollywood type definition for the word acting. A student tells me he doesn't see anything inappropriate about having his undergarments show in the classroom. I could lecture or debate him until I was blue in the face and it wouldn't change his mind. So I don't frame the issue into a battle I can't win, I frame it in a way that makes sense to him.

I might ask a student what they would consider a dream job. Then have that student imagine going to an interview with someone who could hire them to do that job at a higher rate of pay than they even expected. Now if the student knew the employer didn't approve of a certain type of attire, would the student wear it anyway? If the student doesn't respond well to the "job" talk, I can use a different scenario. For example, if there was someone they wanted to date, what lengths would they go to try to act in a way that impressed that other person. In either case, the student has to respect someone else's values and behave accordingly.

The key that makes this second concept effective is that I'm respecting what ever values the student has and not asking him or her to change their values, only act in a way that respects the value of others since that is what is necessary to achieve almost any objective.

More about this author: Michael Hatcher

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