I tend to spend a great deal of time talking to teachers about the issue of ‘respect’. ‘Students have no respect’, ‘We have a right to be respected’, ‘There is no respect in society anymore’. I smile politely, feign interest and try to work out what is beneath their protestations.
Demanding and expecting respect is not a starting point I would encourage in anyone working with young people. There may have been a time when respect was automatically bestowed on teachers. If there ever was it has passed and will not be retrieved by passive appeals or rose tinted nostalgia. Victorian child street gangs didn’t have ASBOs or tags, but were terrifyingly brutal and had no respect for those on the outside. ‘Scuse me guvna, I gone an’ nicked your wallet and no mistake’!
Before you can have respect you must have earned the trust of individuals, built your reputation for consistency and demonstrated your empathy with other human beings. If your starting point is ‘How do I earn your respect?’ you are immediately engaged in building relationships, gaining understanding about the students you are working with and building on the authority that you position affords. By expecting your students to give you respect you are placing the responsibility for building relationships on them. You are the adult, in control of your emotions, with skills and experience in developing appropriate relationships and a clear view of where you are leading your class. You are best placed lead the development of trust.
By being proactive you can earn the respect that seems so elusive. By sustaining your perspective as the adult you can take control and marshal your relationships appropriately. Or you could wallow in self pity. As they say in Behaviour Management, ‘It’s your choice!’
© Paul Dix 2006