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Define respect.

I heard once that teachers and students are at odds over the same thing.  R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  Teachers complain most often about a lack of respect.  Likewise, students complain most often about a lack of respect.

It’s funny how something so universally important and desired is so seldom felt.  I believe the issue lies in the diversity of our understanding of respect and not in our willingness to offer respect to one another.  This was confirmed when I polled my students and asked them to define respect.

You guessed it: no two definitions were alike and mine did not match theirs.

My charge to you today is to start this conversation.  Ask your students:

What does respect mean to you?  How do you know if you are being given respect?  What do you do to respect others?

Keeping in mind that the microcosms of classrooms often suffer from a collective feeling that respect is absent, please emphasize the actions behind respect.  Respect is a verb.  How we do respect is just as important as the ways in which we feel respectful.

As part of our larger mission, we want to equip kids with the tools they will need to live happier, more empathetic and resilient lives.

I’m confident that sharing our diversity of opinions about the what and the how of respect will enable our students to better understand one another, to feel more respected and to receive the respect that new people they encounter will offer them into their future.  Because, without an awareness to receive the respectful actions of peers and colleagues, we cannot enter into a respectful relationship with them.

Younger kids can work through this exercise, too.  They will need more supports and models of examples of respect.  This is a great opportunity to reach out to families and incorporate storytelling and tradition sharing.

I hope you’ll share what they come up with!




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