Respect is a crucial element to creating a classroom that fosters success and personal growth. As a student, I have had teachers that did an excellent job of making respect a part of the classroom. In particular, one former instructor in my high school utilized group activities to not only facilitate learning but also teach the importance of respect.
As students in his class, we frequently worked in small groups on complex activities with several different elements. Each time, we were required to hold different roles in the group and had different responsibilities. This helped us to understand each role and equipped us with experiences that we were able to share with the group. Working in small groups encourages students to work together and respect each member’s strengths.
Beliefs and expectations have a large impact on student learning. Every student arrives to the classroom with a different set of beliefs and expectations not only for them as individuals but also from their culture and family. It’s my job as the teacher to recognize these differences and create an environment where each student feels accepted.
Expectations are what drive student success, so as a teacher I maintain high expectations for myself as well as my students. I keep the expectations for behavior and mutual respect very clear and visible in the physical classroom. I also share with my classes my own expectations for myself, and I model appropriate problem solving and reflection when I encounter problems.
There are two modeling strategies that I use to establish a caring and respectful classroom. First, I personally greet my students when they enter my classroom with a smile and sometimes a handshake if I can. I make it a point to pronounce their names correctly when I greet them and ask about their personal interests or extra-curricular activities. This lets my students know that I care about them and that I value mutual respect, and demonstrates a way for them to do the same to each other.
Second, I model problem solving strategies by voicing my thoughts when planning activities or dealing with changes in the schedule. I ask my students for input and value their contributions. This shows them that I also must work with challenges and that I respect their opinions and suggestions.