Monday, March 12, 2007


"An Inspired Teacher treats students with respect and inspires them to treat their teacher the same way." - from An Inspired Teacher Is...

The following is a personal reflection on this element of the Inspired Teaching philosophy:

RESPECT... on the first day of school, (the first day of my life as a teacher) this was the only rule I posted on the wall. I would find out years later that my colleagues had laughed at this incredibly optimistic stance on classroom discipline. There were plenty of moments during that first year when I felt like laughing about it too. But if you really look at all the rules you have posted in your classroom - at the end of the day they do, in fact, boil down to this magical word.

The trick is in getting your students to understand how weighty and comprehensive the word "respect" can be. In my classroom it didn't start out as a word with much heft. Many of my students had not had a lot of experience with respect in their lives. (And they were in high school!) They felt disrespected by their teachers, disrespected by their community, and with few better examples to follow, they took to disrespecting one another.

Showing my students respect was an exercise in patience and humility because at first it was rarely a courtesy they returned. I'd stand in the hall and welcome them to class, they'd push past me and grumble about how much they hated school. I'd quietly wait for their attention, forcing myself not to raise my voice, but they'd keep talking as if I wasn't there. Sometimes the noise got so bad neighboring teachers would come in to silence them with a threatening scream. It was hard not to notice the effectiveness of their method. Still, I waited for the golden day when my method would prevail.

It took a long time. Longer than I thought. Respect and trust go hand in hand and trust is not built over night. My students had to learn to trust that my respect would not give way to the yelling, punishing, demeaning behavior they were used to in other classrooms. Respect was just another "teacher" word on my wall until they began to believe in what it meant. Trust was earned as much in the class as it was in the hall, at the football game, after school, in the grocery store. When they realized that I was the same person in all those contexts, that my respect for them was unfailing, they began to share their trust and respect with me.

I certainly didn't survive the whole first year without yelling now and then. But I had built enough of a trusting relationship with my students for them to forgive these moments, and sometimes, even take responsibility for the actions that brought them out in me.

No comments: