Respect, student engagement and classroom management go hand in hand. A teacher who engages his/her students will have a well managed classroom. This in turn will result in a mutual respect between teacher and student. There are four important words to remember that will contribute to student engagement and in turn mutual respect. These words are power, fun, freedom and belonging.
1. Power – Power is something that everyone wants. Nobody wants to be told exactly what to do and how to do it. This goes for young children, adolescents and adults alike. This is why it is vitally important to give your students power over what takes place in the classroom and how they learn. Begin on the first day of the school by asking students for their input on classroom rules and consequences. Let students know that your classroom is a democratic atmosphere where their opinions are valued and taken into consideration. Even if you have an activity that you have been doing with your students for 10 years, ask the class for their opinions. Maybe they will have a good idea that will enhance the activity/assignment. When completing assignments, always offer students options. Remember that each student has a different set of skills and interests, and will choose to display their learning in different ways.
2. Fun – Students NEED to have fun, no matter what age they are. Incorporate humor into your lessons. Look for “out-of-the-box” ideas as projects for your students. Minimize note-taking and question-and-answer assignments as well as other mindless, non-engaging activities. Incorporate the multiple intelligences into your teaching as much as possible in order to teach concepts in many different ways. Remember that when students are engaged and having fun, they are maximizing learning.
3. Freedom – Allowing students freedom makes them feel more in control of their learning. This is very similar to “Power”. When you teach handwriting to young students, praise them for using personal style (as long as it is an acceptable style!). Encourage your students to make their work their own by adding unique, creative touches. Never tell a student exactly how to do an assignment.
4. Belonging – Belonging is one of our basic needs. Whether it is to a family, a group of friends or an organization, we all have the need to belong. A classroom MUST be a place where everyone feels that they belong. Everyone’s opinion is valued, everyone is respected and everyone is equal. Power struggles that often take place on the playground should not be happening in the classroom. There are many ways to encourage belonging every single day. Morning meetings are a great way to encourage belonging. There are a couple of excellent books on the market describing the details of how morning meetings should be conducted. The Morning Meeting Book by Roxann Kriete is highly recommended. Additionally, encouraging your students to positively comment each other is great for enhancing feelings of belonging. One way to do this is through positive peer evaluation.
In closing, it is your job to make sure that your classroom is a place where your students want to be. It is your job to make sure that you are a respectful teacher that your students enjoy learning from. Respect begins with you. Remember the old saying, “Give and you shall receive”.