Stoddard explains that employees have these six needs:
- Personal Growth
In this first article, I’d like to expand on the idea of respect in the classroom.
When I ask adults about their favorite teacher, I get a mix of responses from the different content areas. Perhaps one person recalls an influential history teacher while another was inspired by an English teacher and a third by a coach. However, when I ask them to elaborate, the common thread is that their favorite teacher treated them respectfully. While it’s true for me and for others that I performed well for teachers who were heavy-handed or disrespectful and patronizing, it was often to avoid their wrath. I wanted to appease them so I would run no risk of being a target. Thus I “did what I was supposed to do,” and in the process, I learned.
However I did my best work when I felt valued by the teacher. I didn’t just want to appease, I wanted to please. I engaged more willingly in the lesson, I tended to process my thinking more deeply, and in short, I invested more gray matter in those classes. Just as we engage more deeply in relationships with friends who respect us, we do the same in an educational setting.
Interestingly, it didn’t seem to matter if the teacher was strict or lenient as long as I felt respected. In fact, many of us chose our current careers based on the influence of such a teacher. Though I teach math and science now, I originally got a degree in English based on the impact of a single teacher in my senior year.
I was a student who often got in trouble in school. Almost invariably the consequences were well deserved. But as so often happens, there were rare occasions when I was held accountable for something that wasn’t my fault. In those instances, if the teacher was not someone who respected me, I felt indignant and spiteful. In some cases I withdrew in those classes and failed to work at my potential.
On the other hand, if the teacher was someone who showed respect to me in general, I endured the punishment with no lasting effects. I didn’t hold it against the teacher, and it didn’t affect my performance in the class if it were an isolated case.
So as a teacher, this makes me consider what sort of message I am sending to my students? How can I communicate respect for them? What steps can I take to build that foundation?
First, I believe respect must not only be felt but also communicated. The fact that I feel respect for them counts for nothing if I don’t make an overt attempt to show it. I need to be complimenting students often. When I call on a student for a simple answer, I can acknowledge their attentiveness, accuracy, and cognition. Last week, I complimented a student who doesn’t get outstanding grades by recognizing how well she is able to communicate mathematical thinking in words. Most students can’t do that.
I can also listen more–even when my middle schoolers are talking way more than I feel I need to hear. If they want to tell me about their latest video game conquest in the middle of the lesson, I can at least say, “Can you tell me about that during passing time? I’d like to hear more.” Listening to the small talk will lead to deeper communication. I find that when students feel that their words matter, they are more willing to talk about more significant issues.
Years ago our school’s cook came to work each day before 6:00 am. If our basketball team had a home game that evening, she was in the stands until it ended. The students in turn had great respect for her. We never had a food fight in all her years. While that level of time commitment may not be possible for all of us with families, it shows the powerful effect of communicating respect.
A while back I got on a student about an issue, and when he began to try to explain, I shut him down and said that I didn’t want to hear any excuses. Later I realized that I had misjudged the situation, and I went to him to apologize. He said it was no big deal, but I wasn’t so sure that he was able to blow it off so easily, and it really bothered me. That day in science we did some experiment that involved fire, explosions, or some other engaging effect, and he posted on Facebook that night, “I have the coolest science teacher ever!” While I don’t think that’s true, it showed me that he was indeed able to see through our conflict to the underlying respect we have for each other.
In the coming months, we will take a look at Stallard’s other five components. In the meantime, drop me a comment about how you like to communicate respect in the classroom and the effects you see as a result.