At the beginning of the school year, we set classroom rules, and expectations. We will listen to each other, validate other people’s opinions and we will agree to disagree respectfully. The big word we emphasize? Respect.
As a teacher it is my responsibility to model these guidelines – as thoroughly as possible. To me, this means more than remembering to say “please”, “thank you”, or “I respectfully disagree with…”. It’s more than hearing a child out, responding with a “That’s very interesting, Johnny” - before moving the conversation forward.
To respect your students is not just to give them a smile and lip service. It’s taking that step to relinquishing control of the classroom, and trusting your students to make decisions that will work for them. It’s letting them make the rules.
Respecting your students is respecting their ideas. It means taking a chance and stepping away from planned curricula to explore an alternative route – just because a student asked a question. It means validating that question by encouraging the student to pursue an answer – even if it means veering off course from the route you had initially charted.
Why is this so difficult to achieve? Because content-laden standards and benchmarks (focusing on knowledge rather than process), scripted curricula, testing and grading, or even our own tendency to plan and control can get in the way.
If we let them.