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Respect in Action

Ideas for Educators & Students

Found in: Classroom Management

How do we teach students to act in ways that demonstrate respect - being tolerant of differences, using good manners and appropriate language, not threatening, hitting, or hurting anyone, and dealing peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements. Here are five ideas that educators have used with their students.

Be Respectful

If we want our students to show respect, then we need to be respectful enough to them to show them that we care enough to follow through with what we say.

—Rebecca Marks, NEA Director-ESP At Large, Nebraska

Creating Safety Nets

I choose a teachable moment to tell a story that encourages risk-taking and mutual respect during discussion—when a child's response to a question is met with tittering causing the child to feel embarrassed.

I tell this story:

'This reminds me of a story I've been meaning to share. A few years ago many of my students went to see the circus when it was in town. Our discussion came around to trying to decide who was the most important person in the circus. One child raised his hand to say that the ringmaster was most important. Another said the acrobats were most important. Yet another said the motorcyclist was most important. Throughout the discussion a quiet hand attached to a patient person remained in the air. I asked that child, "Who do you think is most important?" The child announced that no one may have noticed but each time the lights went out a person went around checking the cables on the safety net to make certain no one was injured. We voted on who the class thought was the most important and the safety net person won, hands down.'

Then I tell the students we need a safety net in our class so that on one is ever harmed in any way. We discuss physical and emotional harm. I ask if there is some signal we can use with our bodies to alert one another that we need to raise the safety net to support someone in case he or she is in danger of falling. The signal we most often use is both hands clasped together and while still clasped, opened wide. This signal stops a student from laughing at a fellow student's idea and assures the speaker that he/she has everyone's attention. This strategy works well to make students aware of choices available to them in responding to classmates and also improves listening skills.

—Jerry Cohee, teacher mentor, Baltimore, Maryland (from NEA Works4Me)

Understanding the Students Behind the Behavior

The young adolescent is often unknowingly saying or doing things that pierce a thin veneer of confidence in other students. Effective educators will recognize all of this as normal (if undesirable) and work to educate students and to communicate regularly the belief system of tolerance, understanding, and recognition of differences. (See the full article, Maintaining a Safe Environment )

—Pete Lorain, retired teacher and principal, Beaverton, Oregon

Model & Demonstrate What Respect Means

Having worked as a classroom teacher and character development leader, I've found that it's always important that the student be shown what the expected behavior looks like, sounds like, and feels like. Modeling is the key to success. It's not enough to just say what it is.

If you want the children to demonstrate respect, for example, they need to first know what respect is and what it looks like. Often, students will say "I show respect to my friend by being nice." This is not specific enough. A teacher needs to ask, "What does that look like?" Being nice may mean "listening to my friend when he or she talks."

Once the concept of respect is made more explicit, it's up to the teacher to demonstrate what listening looks like, sounds like, and feels like. I often would model examples of what good listeners do (e.g., eyes on speaker, lean toward the speaker, nod, smile). The modeling would include teacher showing through example and student practice during role play. We must take time to lay the groundwork initially, but it pays off in the long run.

Once your targeted behaviors are modeled and demonstrated, create an anchor chart that states, "Good Listeners..." Include in the chart what it looks like (hands in lap, mouths not moving, eyes on speaker, etc.), what it sounds like (all are quiet except the speaker, clapping to acknowledge good ideas when the speaker is done), and what it feels like (calm, comfortable, etc.).

—Dan Celetti, Algoma District School Board in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, Canada, currently a special assignment teacher helping teachers implement research-based learning strategies in the areas of literacy, numeracy, and character development.

Show Respect

Ask the question and then listen for the answer.

—Bob McCarty, head custodian, Torrington, Wyoming


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