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How-To: Manage Your Classroom
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Gaining Respect in the Intermediate Grades Julie Dermody

The best way to have your students be respectful to you as the teacher is to be respectful to them. I start the year with a discussion about individual differences and how we can respect these differences within our class. From this discussion class rules are developed. These rules basically boil down to respecting each other on the outside (personal space, not fighting), on the inside (feelings), and respecting each other's personal property. I hold regular classroom meetings to get my students' feedback, ask them for their opinions, and share any concerns I have. If class problems arise, I ask them for possible solutions. If I do not have the answer to a problem, I am honest with them and tell them. I also have a suggestion box in my room and I encourage their signed and unsigned comments and constructive criticism.

The students realize that I care about their feelings and opinions. I have changed class routines as a result of student suggestions. I also explain if what they suggest is "out of my control" -- e.g.. not wearing hats in school is a school policy, not a classroom policy -- there is nothing I can do (but I will tell them who to contact if they would like to comment about particular school rules).

Developing a sense of community within the classroom helps build respect. Just as I have responsibilities within the classroom, my students are responsible for jobs. These responsibilities include filling out a "While You Were Gone" sheet for class members that are absent.

The most important way I obtain feedback is through report cards--the report cards that they fill out on me. Every time I fill out report cards on them, they fill them out on me. My report card format changes every year since each class designs it. At the beginning of the year I review the report card format I will fill out on their work and effort and they brainstorm to come up with a report card that they can use to "grade" my work and effort. Each year "fairness" and " being nice" are leading qualities for a good teacher in their eyes.

It takes time to build a caring community out of the class list that you are given at the beginning of the year. The goal is to have students treat you, themselves, and other members of the class with respect. The time you invest at the beginning of the year in getting to know each one of your students and listening to them--building relationships--is worth every minute, as fewer problems will arise as the year goes on.


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