Wednesday, February 22, 2012

12 Ways Educators Earn Respect, Part One

This is part one of a two-part series describing 12 ways educators earn respect.  In part one, I describe the first 6 ways.  Part two describes the second 6 ways. 
Why two parts? 
I intended this to be one post, but it began to get too long for my liking (I like my blog posts to be quick reads, not short novels) and to shorten the descriptions, I felt, didn't do the ideas justice.  So, I broke up the 12 ways into 2 separate posts.
The order of the 12 ways is NOT in order of importance, only chance.

  One of the reasons given by people who stopped teaching after a few years for their decision is a general lack of respect afforded them by their students and/or families of their students.  I find this reason interesting because of the three most commonly given (including low pay and lack of resources), earning respect is the one over which the teacher has the most influence.

You have little or no control over the salary your school pays you.

You have little or no control over the amount of space, time, and resources your school provides.


You have a great deal of influence on how much respect you earn.

This last point is the one that many educators forget (or were never taught).  In my opinion, it is also the point that strikes most at the heart of teacher empowerment and success.  When you do the things that will earn you respect, drum roll please.... You earn respect.

Here are 12 tips for how educators (with any level of experience) can earn and/or maintain the respect of their students.

1.  Set Goals...

Knowing what yo want to accomplish and/or where you want to go is important.  More important is knowing how you came about those goals, establishing an action plan that is compatible to attaining them, and developing the discipline to follow through - especially when things appear to be getting off track.  Being clear with these answers and being able to communicate them to others provides a clarity and direction that most people appreciate.

Teachers who struggle in this area often struggle with earning student respect because the environment appears directionless and disorganized.  When you appear to not be able to be prepared for your class, students will have a had time believing you are able to help them.  The may like you and have fun, but those outcomes may not be a sign of respect.

In order to be successful, you need to define success.  You cannot define success without knowing what you  want to accomplish and how you will go about attaining those goals.

2.  Stick with It

At some point, you are going to hit a rough patch.  Things will not go as planned and the road to success gets very difficult.  It helps when you set your goals to accept that they are attainable, but not easy.  Ultimately, though, you need to grit your teeth and work through the tough spots.  Many teachers give up before they should because they either began with the illusion that teaching would be easy or they weren't prepared to dig a little deeper.

There is a great deal of self-satisfaction that comes with having worked through a difficult problem.  If your challenge was public and students see that evidence, chances are you earned respect points in their book.  We tend to hold those who fought through difficult challenges and emerged better, more capable as a result of that challenge - this is basically the premise of every hero story.

3.  Learn from Mistakes

Mistakes are not the enemy.  Not learning from them is.  In order to do this, a healthy growth mindset and "be better" approach is helpful.

You will make mistakes in class, and so will your students.  How you respond to those mistakes is an important piece to earning respect.  Your reaction will send a message loud a clear about what matters most to you:  the content or the person, the lesson or the learning.

Students tend to respect teachers who care more about the person in front of them and that the person is learning, not that you were able to deliver your lesson on today's content.

4.  Take Chances, but Avoid Recklessness

Students like to try new things, especially in classes that are very predictable.  Unfortunately, trying new things may lead to a few mistakes (see previous item).  If communicate about the new idea up front and prepare the students for it, chances are that even if it doesn't work as planned, you will earn a few points of respect.  What doesn't work is if your new idea is a complete surprise.  In that case, it comes off as poor planning.

Also, if you want to take a few chances on something new, improvise, or respond to a moment of inspiration, it helps to have a clear DO NOT DO LIST.  This is your list of non-negotiable do not do's.  This list is important because it can act as an often helpful balance.  How many teachers, in a moment of inspiration (or frustration, brilliance, or whatever) did some REALLY dumb things that A. got them in deep trouble and/or B. did great damage to the level of respect for all teachers by the general public. 

5.  Over-Communicate

I have rarely had a student or family tell me they are getting too much information, but I have often been told that communication is lacking.  Sending messages and responding to others demonstrates commitment to the individual.  Few things earn respect more than taking a personal interest in a student's progress.  It helps to block off time each week to send a few messages and to have a response plan for incoming messages.

If you are interested in more about teacher communication, you can check out my eBook Paying Attention: Thoughts on Communication in Schools.   

6.  Have a Plan, but Be Flexible

Having a plan, as opposed to showing up and improvising, provides direction and clarity.  Your plan answers the questions, "What are we doing?" and "How are we doing it?"  In addition, a good plan also helps students see "Why we are doing this?"

However, as with many plans, once they are put into action, being flexible enough to adjust to circumstances or new ideas is a trait that students tend to respect.  This is especially true when the students themselves are the ones generating the new ideas.

The bottom line is to know what, how, and why students are doing your lesson, communicate those things to the students, and be prepared to "follow an unplanned path" that remains true to the lesson's purpose.

Looking ahead to part two:

Part two continues this list of 12 ways educators earn respect.  Here is a preview of the items you can expect to see:

  1. Listen
  2. Know your stuff
  3. Stop trying to prove you know your stuff
  4. Have a foundation
  5. When in doubt...
  6. ? (a mystery item, ohhhhhhh)
Ok, now that you are  primed to continue reading, stay tuned for 12 Ways Educators Earn Respect, Part Two - coming to this blog soon.

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