Mutual respect in the classroom encompasses more than the interaction between students and the teacher. An atmosphere of mutual respect means that students also treat each other properly. The result is a classroom where more learning takes place as students feel safe, motivated and, of course, respected. Achieving this atmosphere takes considerable effort on the part of the teacher as well as the students. Once established, however, students will usually work to maintain the positive classroom environment.
Establish clear classroom expectations from the first day of school. Post your classroom rules and procedures on the wall where they are clearly visible. Consider having only one rule in your classroom -- respect. Students will be expected to respect you, each other, themselves, their work and property. Let students know what to expect from you, as well.
Have a discussion with your class about respect and why it is important. Talk about what it looks like. Discuss the language that makes them feel respected and disrespected.Establish the idea that respect is something that everyone wants and is capable of giving to others.
Model respectful behavior at all times. Show respect to students by addressing them by name in a calm voice. Speak to students in the same way you expect to be spoken to by them. Speak to administrators, support staff and other teachers with respect. When you are a teacher, you teach all of the time -- even when you are in the hall having a discussion with another teacher.
Role play situations in which students need help showing respect. Many students have been raised in environments where respect is only given out of fear. They may need help learning the right words to respond to a given situation.
Provide students with consistency. Enforce rules fairly, without favoritism, and enforce consequences as warranted. Whenever you must give a student a penalty, do so privately, with respect for her dignity. Calmly explain the reason and end on a positive note. For example, "When you chose to interrupt the class, you knew the consequence. I'm looking forward to seeing you tomorrow in class."
Do not expect to instantly create a climate of respect. It can takes weeks of practice before students realize that they are in a safe in an environment where they don't need to behave defensively.
Demonstrate that you respect students for who they are as people. Get to know your students and their interests. Ask them about their latest basketball game, art project and other interests. You will be showing that you care about them as individuals while demonstrating caring and respectful behavior towards others.
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