Do we demand or earn respect?

Bird Droppings December 14, 2009
Do we demand or earn respect?

Nearing the middle of a month and a with a New Year coming, it seems spring is only a few days away. A few Saturday’s back was an interesting day as I ran my errands. As it happens often, I ended up at a Barnes and Nobles bookstore and got caught up in looking about for books, several caught my attention. A relatively new book by Dr. Temple Grantin, a small book entitled Listening with your heart by Dr. Wayne Peate, and a book by Dr. William Glasser, The Quality School. Three doctors was one similarity as I look for other tie ins and why these particular books caught my attention.
In the Introduction to Listening with your heart, which is an inspirational book a comment is made as he is asked a question. “Dr. Peate, which do you think is best for my husband, alternative or modern medicine?” this being asked by the wife of one of my patients. My answer was, “Whatever works”. As I look at the words coming from this man who is a trained physician, trained in modern medicine and yet willing to allow an alternative if it works. “Whatever works”
Dr. Glasser looks and analyzes education in his book The Quality School with perhaps a more definitive outlook, yet still trying to find what works in that particular school. In his criteria for a quality school Dr. Glasser starts with point one.

“Relationships are based upon trust and respect, and all discipline problems, not incidents have been eliminated.” Dr. William Glasser

Going a step further in 2002, Dr. Bradley Greene describes what this first point looks like in a rubric.

“Students and staff can learn both independently and cooperatively, have strong relationships built on trust and respect, contributing through community service, peer tutoring, mentoring, and various forms of group process. Students will learn to get along in a variety of learning experiences. Teams, cooperative learning, and classroom meetings…..and primary belief of school is that every student can improve” Dr. Bradley Green, Quality School Rubric

As I look at my own relationships with students I have found students relate to teachers who trust them and have respect for them. I have been in situations as a case manger where even though I was the one who had to refer a student because I did respect and trust them, they understood why I had to refer them or initiate proceedings against them. When a teacher operates out of distrust and little or no respect it is difficult to teach and or even walk in a room or even down a hallway. So often I hear teachers and even substitutes, want a class to respect them because they are the teacher. Respect is a word that we tend to throw around very easily.

“To feel or show deferential regard for, esteem. To avoid violation of or interference with: To relate to or refer to: A feeling of deferential regard: The state of being regarded with honor or esteem. A willingness to show consideration or appreciation.”

I was trying to find where in the respect handbook it says teachers by nature of the word demand respect. I hear that often, I demand respect from my students. That is like wearing a sign that says you will respect me. Many years ago I recall a TV show, Kung Fu, starring David Carridine. Often during the course of the show it would flash back to his teacher an old blind man who called him grasshopper. The young apprentice had tremendous respect for the old man for his wisdom of the world and his skills in martial arts. Many times as we travel in life people want respect that others have gained, earned such as all teachers should be respected. I have always had a difficult time with this statement, partly because there are sorry teachers and how can a student be expected to respect them. I have always been one to believe you earn respect not demand it. Then the issue becomes how does a teacher earn respect?

“Fools take to themselves the respect that is given there office” Aesop

“Respect commands itself and it can neither be given or withheld when it is do” Eldridge Cleaver

So often people expect respect and demand respect because they are insecure. They themselves are unsure of who they are and where their place is in society. Being in a position of respect albeit a teaching position which is associated with respect has paradoxes affiliated with it often. There may be rules to back up being respected and referrals slips and consequences for disrespect. You can be suspended for disrespecting a teacher or adult figure in many schools. In effect there are written rules that demand respect for teachers.
I wonder how many students write up teachers for disrespect. I wonder what would happen if teachers were under a referral system and had consequences. If students learned by referral as teachers seem to believe as many times they teach by referral. If you disrespect me I can write you up or if you use foul language or are inappropriate in class. I wonder what sort of anarchy would occur within a school; say a democratic school when all are held accountable for learning and understanding. I find Dewey’s idea intriguing of a Democratic school and the Foxfire Approach to teaching which is the basis of my dissertation, is done in this manner.
Another program using this approach is the Sudbury school that I have mentioned over the years which is totally a democratic school and perhaps a bit more so that John Dewey speaks of in his writings. Could schools bear more student involvement in a large public school forum, or is that issue one of more teachers being aware of students. Could it be we need more student directed learning, or more student interaction in the learning process rather than purely a top down teacher to students. It could be a balancing of teachers and students in a symbiotic relationship, or possibly an osmotic relationship where both students and teachers are teaching and learning.

“Motivation to learn derives from the learners estimates of the usefulness of the task and the probability of success.” “For faculty, as for students, trust necessarily precedes the risk of learning something new” Dr.Marilla D. Svinicki,

When do teachers become learners? Sitting here this morning wondering about the direction of where I am going myself. Could students learn more and could teachers learn more, absolutely yes on both counts. Could we have quality schools as discussed in Glasser’s books? Absolutely we could. So why is we do not? Why is it we do not embrace this wealth of research and knowledge and proceed to make every school a school of quality a school of learning and of wonder?
I think Dr. Svinicki hits the nail on the head “trust precedes the risk of learning something new”. If we do not trust one another as teacher student and administration it is difficult to move beyond where you are. A lack of trust in our society hurts us, and we ourselves perpetuate that distrust. Think about daily life, with speed limits, tax loop holes, and the list goes on. We demand respect yet in turn have little ourselves. I am opening up quite a window with that idea. Please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.

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