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Earning Students' Respect

By Gustavo Ramirez, Guidance Counselor / Education Consultant

Teaching, whether in public or private schools, without having students’ respect is never successful – not for teacher nor student. Disrespectful students cannot and do not learn; disrespected teachers cannot teach. Yet, respect cannot be taught like a class subject to students, nor can it be forced out of or into them. In today’s advanced and super technical world, the best way to obtain students’ respect is by earning it. It’s the first, and most important, lesson that anyone who wants to be a successful teacher should learn. Many first-time teachers make the mistake of trying to teach while demanding respect from students. Sadly, they end up having very miserable experiences in the classroom. That is because respect cannot be screamed at students, nor can it be pounded into them by teachers who give hysterical and impassioned speeches everyday. Respect may be required or it may be demanded; but it comes easiest when it is earned – one class and one day at a time. Teachers who lead students in class each day, are passionate about what they teach, and show students compassion and integrity will easily earn their respect and trust.

Most of us come to respect our parents, not because they punished us into being respectful, but because from a very early age we learned to depend on them and trust them wholeheartedly. Trusting someone, though, does not happen overnight. Parents earn trust by fulfilling their children’s needs each day when they provide them with food, a roof over their heads, and with an abundance of love and comfort. Even instilling discipline into children is another way in which parents fulfill our human need, as social creatures, to have structure and order in life. Teachers fulfill students’ needs everyday when they motivate them to want to keep learning more and more, and when they help them to reach their potential. Curiosity, after all, is a prime characteristic that is intrinsic to all human beings. However, successful teaching and successful ‘curiosity indulging’ is not an easy task. It is not a job for someone who is short of temper, who gives up very easily, and who does not like confronting many challenges.

Teachers who choose to constantly lecture, argue with, and throw sarcastic remarks at students who misbehave in the classroom merely encourage them to view their teachers as peers or equals, not as leaders. On the other hand, teachers who try to keep their cool at all times, no matter what happens in the classroom, are role models who show students how “not” to be wishy-washy or moody. These are the teachers who students consider “predictable” because these teachers do not walk into the classroom everyday constantly stressed out, for one reason or the other. These are the school leaders who students just know they cannot backtalk, challenge, or try to take advantage of – especially if the classroom should become loud or noisy. These are the teachers who make every effort to avoid letting students’ misbehavior get under their skins. (That’s not easy!) These are teachers who know that only by keeping an emotional distance from students’ misbehavior are they able to get past it everyday. These are teachers who deal with misbehavior in the classroom whenever it rears its ugly head, by insisting on the same consequence each time a student slips – with no exceptions for anyone.

How else do we earn students’ respect everyday, whether in a classroom or not? A way that is bound to always yield positive results is by being the leader who never lies, and who is “fair”. That word may have a different meaning for each single student; however, it basically means always doing what we say we will do, and not changing our minds all the time. Consequently, teachers who make every effort to be constant and fair will find it less stressful to enforce behavior standards and rules everyday. We slowly gain the respect of others, especially young people, by showing them over and over again that they can trust us unequivocally. Moreover, when we try to build rapport with our students, in a genuine not artificial way, we will always influence them and be the light they seek as an answer to whatever stress or irritability may be pulling them down. Finally and most importantly, the best way that teachers can earn the respect of students is by being that someone who is always willing to listen to them. Listen and agree are words that have totally different meanings — but that’s another article.

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