You Know That Old Saying About Respect?


Many teachers subscribe to the mantra, “You have to give respect to get respect.” They usually say this to students starting on the first day of school and hammering it into them until the last day of school. Many times, by the end of the year, the teacher is left disrespected and upset with the irascible and disobedient group of students she has. “Kids these days!” she haughtily cries.

Of course, the teacher fails to realize that the conditional situation of giving and receiving respect is a failure because the teacher herself isn’t holding herself to her own value.

So how about this? Instead of making students earn our respect, why don’t we just give it to them from the get-go? After all, aren’t they people first and foremost? Aren’t people all entitled to respect?

I imagine the safest, most stimulating, and healthiest classrooms are those in which the teacher doesn’t declare herself entitled to respect, but rather declares her students entitled to respect. Especially as they get older, what kid wants to come into a classroom and be told in no uncertain terms, “You are not worth my respect until you show me I am worth yours!” Come on, Teach, get over yourself.

I know it may be an old school vs. new school philosophical debate, but my main point is this: I think a lot of teachers would do well to drop their desire to be the omnipotent and almighty authority in favor of treating their students with some dignity.

Students shouldn’t have to earn our respect. We should give it to them from the start – no doubt we’ll see that we have to give respect to get respect.

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2 responses to “You Know That Old Saying About Respect?

  1. I completely agree with your ideas here! I can’t say I do it perfectly, but I do try. I have to say, what bothers me more than when students don’t act respectfully towards me, is when students act disrespectfully towards one another. I am the adult and can choose not to take a disrespectful comment or outburst personally (because often with teenagers it’s not), but a peer often does take it personally.

  2. Agreed! Fully! Give respect to get respect.

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