Thursday, April 9, 2015

I Get No Respect

Those of us of a certain generation remember the signature line of the stand-up comedian Rodney Dangerfield: "I tell ya, I get no respect." He would tell story after story of how he got no respect from anyone. My favorite was when he explained that his parents tied a pork chop around his neck so the dog would play with him. No respect.

The other day in a focus group, I could swear I saw a teacher tug at a red tie when he said, "I get no respect." He was talking about how students in his building did not respect him or other adults. He went on to complain about his students' families and to wax on about the golden days when his father would deal with disrespect with a firm hand. He concluded with, "I tell ya, I don't give a kid respect until I get respect. My respect needs to be earned." (Ok...maybe he didn't say "I tell ya" but the rest is accurate.

I have written about this previously, but it is worth repeating because it keeps repeating itself.

In the absolutely reciprocal relationship that is respect between a teacher and a student - I respect you, if you respect me - the adult has to go first. When adults tell me that they will show a student respect when a student shows them respect, I always think they will be waiting a long time. Maybe it's my age, but at 50+ I am not waiting around for some 13 year-old (I have neckties that are older) to respect me before I show them the respect I believe is due to all human beings. I refuse to let anyone's incomplete upbringing negate the wonderful job I believe my parents did with mine. Even students in focus groups, when this topic comes up, get it that the adult has to start.

The fact of the matter is, there is no way to disrespectfully teach someone who is disrespectful to respect you. The only way to teach respect, to get another person who is being disrespectful to respect you, is to respect them in spite of their disrespect. It turns out that when someone treats you respectfully, even if you disrespect them, they come to learn what real respect is and to then treat you with respect. Teacher respect for students must be a constant even in the face of variable respect from students.

If you are a teacher trying the Wait-to-Get-Respect-Before-Giving-It strategy with students, you might want to consider stand-up comedy instead.

1 comment:

joan said...

When working with students, we must show them respect in order to get their respect in return. Some students come to us with no idea of how to earn respect, so we need to show them.