Recently I got an email from a high school principal asking for advice on how to deal with students who "continually show disrespect—sometimes to an extreme degree—to staff members, particularly their teachers." As I teach at the college level, I decided to contact an educational expert, Angela Maiers, for advice for those who work with high school students. Her response? The 5 R's!
Rapport: "Don't Smile Until Christmas!" This was the advice that I was given as a first year teacher. It was hailed as the strategy that would allow us to gain control of our classroom and show our students "who's the boss." Thankfully, we have evolved as educators recognizing how important feeling welcome, comfortable, and validated are to our learning success.
In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell makes the case that the rapport we feel in the first few seconds (two to be exact) of an experience or interaction, dramatically influences how we will respond to the person or event. I challenge us to walk into our classrooms and think about the first two seconds from a student's perspective. How can we find ways to set the tone for the experience, invite students in, and let them know they are welcome and valued? Taking only seconds out of our day, imagine how a smile, a pat on the back, a look that communicates "we're gonna have a great day" would mean to our students.
Routine: Being consistent in what you do and what you expect sounds easy, but we all know that schools (life?) are places with constant interruption and inconsistency. In saying that, we must realize that learners do best when they know exactly what is expected of them. Consistency in routine, behaviors and policies are the key ingredients for success...
Rigor: The brain needs challenge to thrive. When students say they are bored, we need to listen. Mundane, skill, drill, fill-in the blank tasks are an invitation for boredom and disengagement. When students are not challenged, they find ways to challenge themselves. On the other hand, rigor is not something that can be demanded or assigned. If we want students to engage in critical dialogue, solve problems, take risks, and attempt difficult tasks, then we need to show them how that is done. So, the next time we assign homework, ask students to complete a project, or engage in an activity, we need to ask ourselves:
- Would this be something real readers/writers/thinkers would do?
- Does this build students' ability to think critically, ask powerful questions, extend the conversation into real life application?
- Did I teach this or assign it?
- Have I explicitly demonstrated how the task will be done by modeling, providing guided practice with feedback, and giving them acknowledgment of jobs well done?
When students do not see authenticity and purpose in what they are doing, the residual effect will be off task behavior, distraction, disrespect.
Relationship: More often than not, when a student is disrespectful, it is because the student feels disrespected by the teacher. Perception, whether accurate or not, is still reality. Even the most well intentioned teachers are disrespectful in subtle and not-so-subtle ways:
- facial expressions
- body language
- forgetting students' names
- terse comments on papers
- ignoring some students while playing favorites with others
- not recognizing their "life" skills as learning strengths
But, most of all, we disrespect them by underestimating our students' intelligence and ability, by assuming that we not only know more about our subjects, but that we are superior to our students as learning beings. Teachers that set the tone of - we are ALL learners, sometimes I will lead and other times I will learn from you and follow your lead, are more likely to get the respect they seek.
Responsibility:There is no question that I desire and expect students to take responsibility for their behavior and actions. There is a responsibility on our part as well. We are solely in charge of creating the conditions for learning to exist..
Go here to read more from Angela's post and to add to the conversation. I would say that the 5R's are important to teaching students at any level!