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  • Emma Newling


Updated: Jan 16

“Find out what it means to me” … in the classroom!

Aretha was on to something … respect looks different in different relationships. How I respect my parents as an adult is different to how I showed them respect when I was a child. Likewise, how I respect my husband is different to how I respect my work colleagues.

In my Year 5 & 6 classes, I have one class rule: R.E.S.P.E.C.T. (yes, it’s a cheat … that one word allows me to have six ‘guidelines’). My classes are full of discussion and ideas and that makes it a good training ground for developing respect in my students. They are free to disagree with me and each other but they must do so with respect. For some of them (especially some of the young men), my class is the first time that respectful disagreement is allowed, welcomed, and modelled.

Rather than defining what respect is, we spend time at the start of the year thinking about what it looks like in a classroom, that is, how do you show respect, how do you be respectful. So, what does RESPECT look like?

R – Respect means you …

E – Expect to learn

We are a learning community: I expect everyone to come to class ready and willing to learn, even if it’s not a subject they think is particularly important, and I come expecting to learn from them too, even though I am the teacher.

S – Speak kindly

Words matter and students are to learn to use them well.

P – Practise listening

This is a lost art … I aim to model it in our conversations both through my body language, my choice of words and my willingness to enter their view of the world. I model reflective listening to the students especially when they are asking questions, and, we aim to “listen to understand not to reply”.

E – Engage thoughtfully

Everyone is welcome to their own thoughts, but we seek to understand and think about the ideas that come up in class.

C – Control your body (including your mouth and your hands)

Our younger years use the 5Ls (and similar) for classroom behaviour and Year 5 & 6s still need reminders. But more than that, I want the young men and women that I teach to know how to listen to each other, to engage in conversation, even to disagree while keeping their body, their emotions, their language and their tone under control. They need some trial and error space if they are going to be able to do that when they are adults! Now is the time. This covers everything from ‘hands up’ to not being aggressive or dismissive with your body language even when you deeply disagree with what is being said.

T – Take time

Learning takes time. New ideas need mulling over, big questions usually require long answers and complex problems typically don’t have sound grab solutions. My students live in a fast-paced world and they often look a bit uncomfortable (or loose focus) if something takes time. I fortunately have the freedom in my classes to ‘not rush’ (as long as I can keep myself from being a slave to my own programming), so it’s an opportunity to help my students discover that good learning often takes time.

Perhaps R.E.S.P.E.C.T. might help you in your classroom?

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