Student Respect

I’m sure you know what this post will be about – the complete and total disrespect some students have for their teachers and the content.

Nope, not today.

Today I want to share the importance of respecting the students and how that little bit of respect can go a long way.

As a new hire (I’ve only been on the dream job since January 6), it is crucial that I demonstrate to the administrators, faculty and staff that I am able to deliver what I say I can; whether it’s lesson plans, literacy strategies or differentiated texts, I better know what in the heck I’m talking about. I better be able to model those lesson plans, literacy strategies and differentiated texts in such a way to positively impact student learning, or let’s face it, my credibility and my reputation will take a hit.  I want the teachers to know I have been hired to support them and their very important work; therefore, how can we work together for the sake of our students?

Now, with all of that being said, where do the students fit in?

When modeling a lesson to a class, there are some things to remember:

  1. These students don’t know me from Adam. It is critical that I remember I am on their turf and in their “house.” It is important that I demonstrate the utmost respect to their teacher and the content. I thank the teacher in front of the class for allowing me to come in to demonstrate the lesson. I explain to the students that their teacher and I co-created this lesson as a way to support and help them in the upcoming homework assignment, the next thematic unit, or the next standardized test. Whatever it is, I want the students to know that the teacher and I put them at the heart of the lesson and designed one especially for them and the various abilities in the room.
  2. I engage the students as much as possible, even though I don’t know their names. I begin by apologizing for not knowing them personally and explain that I might have to point as I call on someone.  Better yet, why don’t we begin a kind of dialogue where there is constant chatter about the topic?  That usually brings a good response; just being honest has that way with people. Also, I make sure I thank them for their patience. Since this is our first meeting, I may not be familiar with the workings of the Smartboard (I have learned Smartboards can be extremely temperamental!) or I might not know where certain materials are kept, or I may need help distributing handouts. The students very much appreciate knowing the ‘drill.’  They like knowing the classroom routine and being able to exhibit that routine to me. I make sure I thank them several times during our time together for their graciousness.
  3. During the lesson, students are usually working in small groups or individually. At this point, I interact with every group or every student; listening to their comments, reading their annotations or watching them interact with the text. I offer every group or every student some type of response by verbally commenting on their discussion or by silently shaking my head ‘yes’ to their annotations.  It is imperative that the class know I want them to be successful and that I want them to walk away having learned the essential question. When I model a lesson to a class, it is not merely my “job,” it is an opportunity to share what I know with them in a way that will assist them in their work. Therefore, it is crucial that students know I take great care in what they are learning and how they are learning it. In addition, I take great pride in having that brief personalized conversation and great pride in that silent interaction. Every student, by the time the lesson is complete, has had some type of dialogue with me.
  4. Finally as the lesson winds down, I, once again, explain how happy I am to have worked with them and their teacher. Most importantly, I would like to offer them a thank-you in the form of a treat. Every student perks up and accepts my offer. But, before we decide on what kind of treat, I introduce them to Ani. I explain to the students that my daughter, Ani, is autistic and has processing delays. Upon this personal story, every single student has turned to face me. I go on to explain that as a way to help her become more independent and as a way to help her practice organizational skills and directions, she and I often cook and bake on weekends. Therefore it is likely she will bake the treat. Now I get a variety of comments: “That’s great!” “Sounds good to me!” and sometimes I hear, “My (insert relationship here) is autistic.” The students see me as more than just this person-coming-in-to-show-us-this-lesson. Hopefully, they see me as someone who respects them enough that I want to share my life with them in a very personal way – the desire to create something for them as a way to say thank you for their kindnesses.

Most recently, I have been modeling an annotation and questioning technique lesson in the Science classes. Ani has baked for each Science class.  This treat goes beyond a mere thank you, it goes to the core of student respect and that, I truly believe, must be at the heart of every thing we do.