Developing a culture of mutual respect in your classroom begins when you shift your focus from your lesson plans to your students. This doesn’t mean that preparation is not important, only that the impact of what you teach upon the lives of your students is what matters the most. As you see each pupil as unique and special, you will jump-start the process of mutual respect by demonstrating regard and concern on a one-to-one basis.
Although it’s not easy to get up close and personal with each student in a classroom of thirty, it doesn’t take much time to make eye contact, smile, and call each one by name. As you interact you will become better acquainted with the specific needs of each and find unique ways to connect. Meeting the needs of your students while developing rapport will earn you their individual respect.
Students naturally admire a teacher who demonstrates a confidence in her ability to teach and a good working knowledge of the material she is presenting. You may not always have all the answers. When you don’t, older students will value your honest admission coupled with your willingness to say, “But I will do some studying and get back to you on that.” As you demonstrate that you are teachable and willing to learn from your students as well as through your lesson preparation, you model a humility that will cultivate mutual esteem.
Students tend to be attracted to a teacher who is interactive and personable. If you teach elementary students you will need to show patience, kindness, and creativity in your methodology of lesson presentation. Although they may not be able to articulate that what they are feeling is respect, your children will become dear to your heart as they demonstrate their willingness to obey instructions and their eagerness to win your favor.
High school students respect an educator who doesn’t talk down to them in the classroom. They also want to know the rules going in and not be hit with any surprises along the way. Once you set the ground rules, enforce them. Failure to follow through will result in your being disregarded as an authority figure. If you know how to have fun in the classroom, well, that’s another plus in your favor. Teens can spot a fake quickly, so if you are anything less than genuine, your students won’t have a very high opinion of you. Treat a high school student like a responsible person. State the ground rules and enforce them, when necessary. Try to loosen up and show that you know how to have fun, even while maintaining a reasonably high standard. You’ll soon realize that even your most challenging older students with express grudging admiration.
At the college level, students frequently expect the dry lecture that is often the norm in large classrooms. They will appreciate a professor who is able to interject levity, be personable, and be available between and after classes. Though you may not have the opportunity in a large classroom setting, if you can feasibly allow for a few moments of discussion during each class, you will be more successful at keeping your students’ attention and have a greater opportunity for relating well with a majority of your class. Perhaps the biggest tip of all – know your stuff! College students already know the basics so if you are going to earn their respect, you’d better know more than they do.
Students of all ages want the opportunity to express themselves and to be heard. A teacher enjoys the student who participates during discussion. As you and your students engage in the exchange of ideas through a give and take process that involves sharing thoughts, asking questions, and listening to each other, mutual respect will grow.
Both student and teacher come into a new classroom situation with individual expectations. Your students will assume that you will teach them and you will expect them to engage and participate in the learning process. When real learning takes place, teacher and students will respect the process as well as each other.
So, here’s a quick rundown of the main pointers if you hope to foster mutual respect in your classroom.
- Head into the classroom experience with a determination to teach students, not lessons.
- Be intentional about connecting with each student and identifying his educational needs.
- Demonstrate self-confidence and a good working knowledge of your material.
- Be willing to say, “I don’t know,” and be teachable.
- Demonstrate patience, kindness, and creativity with grade school students.
- Treat high school students as young men and women. State the ground rules and adhere to them. Loosen up and be fun. Be genuine.
- Exceed a college level student’s expectations by being personable, knowledgeable, and good-natured. Be available.
- Elicit classroom participation on every level, encouraging new ideas and questions.
- Be a good listener.
- Remember that just as you want respect, so do your students.
Mutual respect grows out of a positive learning environment. By showing consideration for your students and a genuine desire for them to learn, you will help to create a culture in which you can offer respect. In return, you will receive appreciation and even admiration from your students.