How do we encourage a culture of respect?
This has to come from the top.
If a school’s top brass are inconsistent or show the slightest whiff of disrespect to members of their own staff then why should students take a blind bit of notice?
Respect they say has to be earned and it is hard won but achievable in any workplace.
Treating each other with respect, real respect that is, improves school wellbeing and impacts on learning. So many schools have respect written into their constitutional core value system but this is often token-gestured window-dressing for a behavioural policy.
What you get on paper isn’t what you get in the corridors, classrooms, playground and staffroom. Respect is one of the easiest things to spot as an outsider walking past or into a school. It’s just there or it’s not. It’s a highly visible part of a school and if a school has it then it stands out as a shining light.
Some schools make respect the very centre of their identity and adopt a ‘Rights Respecting School’ charter of ‘5 Respects’ that they live by.
Respect is something that needs constant attention and maintenance. Those schools that keep on top don’t let their standards slip, not even for a second.
Assuming that as a staff we respect each other and act as role models to the community, how do we encourage students to respect each other?
In her article, Mary Ryerse (2016) suggests 7 key areas we need to focus on the following:
- encourage students to look each teacher in the eye and shake hands (or in the corona world we live in – touch elbows!)
- be kind to others and be actively inclusive – be the first to reach out to new students and include them.
- look for the good in everyone you meet.
- consider how our attitudes influence our respect for others. We have something to learn from everyone we encounter.
- use names like “scholar,” “student,” and “learner” as you talk with your students. This will be context-dependent but you can have fun addressing students as “Scholar Simon…” etc
- give your students your undivided attention. We need to invest time in them and be there for them.
- celebrate each others’ accomplishments in simple ways such as verbal acknowledgments.
How else can we encourage a culture or respect?
One of the key ways we can get students and staff more respectful of each other is to push and promote random acts of kindness as well as deliberate and intentional acts of kindness. The two need to be running side by side so that it is the norm to be kind.
Some schools have kindness or respect ambassadors but essentially this is a job for everyone otherwise it can appear a special job for special people. This is a job we all muck in with. It’s not an opt-in or seasonal thing. It’s a full-time commitment.
We can teach students to be empathetic by providing them with opportunities to see the world from more than one perspective and this video illustrates this beautifully.
Of course respect involves more than just empathy. It is a complex mix of listening to others, affirming others, smiling, having an open mind, looking for common ground, serving each other, being kind, keeping our emotions in check, being thankful, seeking understanding and being polite. It’s also about just being nice.
Just be nice to others, as Morgan tells us in this video.