Classroom Respect, Behavior & Learning

Respect-Behavior-LearningStand on the playground during recess or in the hall during lunch and you’ll hear the usual conversations about boys, girls, sports, homework, teachers and student life in general, but what you’re also likely to hear are many disrespectful comments being made between students. Generally these are not scathing comments that will scar an individual for life, but they are rude, disrespectful, sarcastic and basically inappropriate comments for anyone to make toward another.

Sometimes as teachers we forget that our job is not only to provide the opportunity and information to learn it is also our job to provide a safe and positive school environment where learning may take place. Most of us are quick to stop out right aggressive behavior or violent talk, but far too often the more mild disrespectful and sarcastic comments are allowed to go unchallenged

Classroom Respect, Behavior & Learning continued...

In or out of our awareness we are modeling appropriate behavior for all students. If we allow or ignore comments of disrespect between students, regardless of how mild, we are sending the message these types of comments are acceptable. The fact that we ignore or do not comment actually reinforces this behavior and increases the likelihood such comments will continue. As teachers, we can’t control what happens in a student’s life at home, at work, or even in the hallway, but we can control what happens in our classrooms (Beamon 2001; Daniel and Benton 1995).

As educators it is our job to ensure that all students are treated with basic respect while in our classroom and in our presence. According to Valerio (2001), a classroom is a “theatrical stage” that must be designed in advance to make students feel comfortable with their instructor, peers, and environment. How we structure our classrooms and what types of behaviors and conversations we allow has a significant impact on the perceived safety of our classroom.

It is important to keep in mind that safety and trust are determined individually by each student in the classroom. Although we may believe our classrooms are safe and each student feels he/she can take risks in the academic and social environment this may not be the case. Our students may be physically safe, but if basic respect is not mandated in our classrooms then many of our students will feel emotionally unsafe which will negatively impact social and academic growth.

When students enter the classroom they are bringing with them years of experiences and issues from the outside world. They have interacted with each other on many levels outside of school. Along with these outside interactions comes deep seated feelings about certain classmates. Whether deserved or not there is little chance of changing students’ feelings toward one another. Although these feelings are rarely changed this does not mean these students cannot give basic respect to one another.

[Mick Jackson is the President and Dean of Faculty for Virtual Education Software, inc. (VESi) and has developed intense intervention programs in both public and private PK-12 settings for over 15 years. He has also taught higher education courses in classroom management and cognitive restructuring for 18 years. For more information on Mr. Jackson or professional development courses offered through VESi please log onto]