Don’t confuse respect with popularity. The latter is a shiny penny kind of thing — it’s nice, but by itself it isn’t worth much. Respect is earned over time, seldom acknowledged, and not very flashy, but it’s the essential underpinning of your relationship with students. Since I believe first and foremost that respect is a two-way street, I decided that I might get pretty good insights on the subject from some of the kids in my own sixth and seventh grade classes. Their advice was so sound I have not been able to improve upon it. Here, in their exact words — with the spelling corrected — is what they said makes them respect a teacher:
· Have fun. Be a little strict. Don’t forget that the things you say mean a lot to a kid. Don’t lie. Keep your word, and if you say something, don’t change it.
· I respect a teacher that gives us two chances at things.
· I would look for a teacher who treats everyone the same and congratulates them on their work. They shouldn’t lie about anything.
· I respect a teacher who gives a lot of help to her students and always explains good if they don’t understand about something. And treat everyone the same.
· Treat everyone equally. Don’t favor one student. Be fair. Be generous. Be sensitive. Be on schedule. And never say one thing and do another.
· Teachers I respect should be knowledgeable about the topics they are teaching. They should not be hypocrites. The teacher should lay down the rules from the beginning and should not alter them for any reason. A teacher should never show that he favors one student, even if he secretly does.
· The thing that would make me give respect to the teacher is that if they gave me a little respect back. I don’t want a lot of respect– just a little.
· I respect a teacher who listens to your ideas, who listens to you…a teacher who makes learning fun and interesting…a teacher who has time for you.
· I respect a teacher who does not break promises, and someone who is very loving and cares a lot.
· You should respect the student before they will respect you. If the student never receives compliments, only criticism, it is hard for the student to respect you.
· Things that make me respect a teacher: not a hypocrite, pays attention to their students, tries very hard at their job, does not insult students, is firm but not mean!
· I respect a teacher who really tries to help someone improve.
· Never, ever go back on a promise.
· Don’t give homework on the first day. Be easy the first month. Don’t respect one person more than another.
· I respect a teacher who gives kids some slack.
· I would respect a teacher if she were strict and meant what she meant but at the same time, be nice and joyful.
· Be nice, but sometimes be strict. Not too strict.
· Never lie to a kid.
· A teacher should earn respect from children by saying what they mean. Teachers sometimes say things and they don’t mean them. Also, don’t try to act like a kid!
· Be nice. When people are nice, nobody wants to get in trouble with them, and they want to be nice back to you.
· Give kids some breaks after long writing periods. Do some hands-on stuff from time to time. Be funny and nice, but stay a little strict.
· To get respect from a kid, you have to be credible. Also, be nice but stern. Know what you are talking about and be creative.
· I respect a teacher who is not lazy, who works very hard. Be consistent. Mean what you say, and follow through. And don’t try to be one of the kids. Being “cool” is fun at first but it doesn’t work. Kids need to have a grown-up in charge.
· What makes me respect a teacher is when they follow through! I like it when they like kids and have fun with the class while we are learning. I don’t respect teachers who don’t like kids — why did they become teachers?
That’s a lot of eloquence and wisdom to digest. I think it can be boiled down to the following points:
1. Be strict but not inflexible. Have a heart and don’t be afraid to show it.
2. If you want kids to work hard, YOU must be willing to work hard.
Model good work habits and demonstrate good values. Care a lot.
3. Establish a track record of honesty and consistency. Mean what you
say. Follow through.
4. Don’t take a cheap path to popularity. Maintain your adultness.
So there you have it — don’t expect enlightenment, gratitude, or quick results. Someday your students will realize how much you loved them, how hard you tried.
Or maybe not. It doesn’t matter. Just keep doing your best. Respect yourself.