Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What about respect?

Tuesday Slice of Life with Two Writing Teachers


I walked to school a new way the other day.
I happened upon a billboard displaying an elementary school's motto:


set up as an acrostic.

The letter "L" was for LEARNING.
The letter "E" was for EARN RESPECT.

I became completely transfixed by those last two words...
and never read further
to see
what "A" and "D" meant.


It echoed with each step I took to school.


Wow, those two words together really rankle.


Is the goal for students to EARN respect?


To say that your mission is for students to EARN RESPECT implies that
students arrive without respect.

I wonder, what am I missing here?
Am I misinterpreting the message?

I wonder, how does a student earn respect?
What does he/she have to do?

I am mystified.


I wonder about the word choice.
I wonder about highlighting this in one's motto.
Making this your community goal.

If I reduced my goals for students to four things,
as a four letter "LEAD" motto tends to do,
I can't imagine that I'd ever end up with


I wonder,
why not "learn respect"?
or, "expect to be shown respect"?
or, "see respect modeled by one and all"?
or, "You will be respected"?
or, "We respect you."

I hope my students feel respected by me.

I believe if they feel respected by me,
they will learn to be respectful,
to be respectful of others...their peers, their teachers, their siblings, on and on.

Should we demand that our students earn respect?


Should we provide a loving, caring, respectful environment
where they know they are cared about
and they feel
in their bones
our respect for them?

What does a child have to do to earn my respect?

Show up in my class.


  1. Wow! I LOVE this post. And I agree wholeheartedly. We are charged to model and teach respect. And ANY human being deserves respect. If I don't treat life respectfully this lack of respect says more about me then the receiver of my disrespect. And when I treat respectfully those who may live in a different way then me or choose a different path then I think is right--again that says more about me in regards to tolerance and acceptance. Respect is not earned. It is gifted.

  2. What a thoughtful walk to school you had.
    As teachers, we all need to stop and reflect on those words we put before our students, those words we ask them to reflect on each day as they become conscious of their power to improve their own lives.
    The team who made that motto did not take the time to truly think through their words, at least, I hope they did not. The alternative - that they believe students do not arrive worthy of respect, is even more disheartening.
    Thank you for being today's reminder for me to reflect on my words.

  3. I think we sometimes may need to re-earn respect if it has been lost due to some bad decisions...but that is more applicable adult to adult, not involving children. I think I know what they were going for...like do the right thing, tell the truth, be nice to others...and people will respect you. But it's a whole different light on the word "respect". Respect for life is different, and we don't have to earn that. Very thoughtful post!

  4. I've worked in many classrooms as an interpreter for the deaf and the classes that had the most genuine caring respectful feel were the ones where the teacher showed their students respect. They respected them as learners and as beings capable of returning that respect.