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How-To: Manage Your Classroom
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How To: Manage Your Classroom
NYC Helpline: Manage Your Classroom

Earning Respect Cynthia Carbone Ward
Check out Cynthia’s Book, How Writers Grow: A Guide for Middle School Teachers,
published by Heinemann.

Don't confuse respect with popularity. The latter is a shiny penny kind of thing -- it's nice, but by itself it isn't worth much. Respect is earned over time, seldom acknowledged, and not very flashy, but it's the essential underpinning of your relationship with students. Since I believe first and foremost that respect is a two-way street, I decided that I might get pretty good insights on the subject from some of the kids in my own sixth and seventh grade classes. Their advice was so sound, I have not been able to improve upon it. Here, in their exact words -- with the spelling corrected -- is what they said makes them respect a teacher: 
  • I respect a teacher who gives us two chances at things.

  • Treat everyone equally. Don't favor one student. Be fair. Be generous. Be sensitive. Be on schedule. And never say one thing and do another.

  • Teachers I respect are knowledgeable about the topics they are teaching. They lay down the rules from the beginning and don't alter them. A teacher should never show that he favors one student, even if he secretly does.

  • I respect a teacher who listens to your ideas, who listens to you...a teacher who makes learning fun and interesting...a teacher who has time for you.

  • I respect a teacher who really tries to help someone improve.

  • To get respect from a kid, you have to be credible. Also, be nice but stern. Know what you are talking about and be creative.

  • I respect a teacher who is not lazy, who works very hard. Be consistent. Mean what you say, and follow through. And don't try to be one of the kids. Being "cool" is fun at first but it doesn't work. Kids need to have a grown-up in charge.

  • What makes me respect a teacher is when they follow through! I like it when they like kids and have fun with the class while we are learning. I don't respect teachers who don't like kids -- why did they become teachers?
That's a lot of eloquence and wisdom to digest. I think it can be boiled down to the following points: 
  1. Be strict but not inflexible. Have a heart and don't be afraid to show it.

  2. If you want kids to work hard, YOU must be willing to work hard. Model good work habits and demonstrate good values. Care a lot.

  3. Establish a track record of honesty and consistency. Mean what you say. Follow through.

  4. Don't take a cheap path to popularity. Maintain your adultness.
So there you have it -- don't expect enlightenment, gratitude, or quick results. Someday your students will realize how much you loved them, how hard you tried. Or maybe not. It doesn't matter. Just keep doing your best. Respect yourself. 


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