The Fertile Soil of Respect
Last week during my 9th grade science class I had a student say, “Mr. Scott, you hate me.”
This is a kid I often invite back into our class discussions, invite back into doing his classwork, remind to get to class on time, and remind to pull up his mask. Sometimes I do this softly and kindly, other times I do it theatrically.
I’ve been trying different techniques to get this student more engaged in class - he says he likes the class a lot, and I can tell, but I also want him to be more engaged with the material. No matter what, though, I’m going to respect who he is regardless of how he behaves in class.
As the adult in the room, I took responsibility for his experience that I hated him. I reflected on why he might’ve felt that way. I could see that how I interacted with him could easily have been interpreted as my not liking him - I was certainly nagging him. As we humans do, he was probably just misinterpreting my passion and energy and taking it personally, so I would likely need to alter my actions in a way that was more digestible to him.
(Here’s another example of that in the classroom, though I really was being a jerk that time!)
So later I said to him, one-on-one, “You said something that I want to discuss. You know what that is?”
He said, “Yeah, Mr. Scott, and I know you don’t hate me. I’m just having a hard time focusing today."
It’s so so so easy to misinterpret others, and I’m grateful that this student didn’t actually misinterpret me. With these simple two sentences, he reminded me of the power of trust in a conversation: when we trust another, we trust that their intentions are positive, trust that there’s caring and compassion behind the communication, and trust that we’re in this together and not against each other.
The most effective way I’ve found to have students trust me is for me to respect and honor them and their individuality, their intelligence, their need to enjoy life. Respecting them takes presence of mind and being more interested in who they are than in who I want them to be. It also takes intentionality and managing my own reactions and emotions.
Whether it's noticed or not, respect is worth giving all on its own. When I respect the sanctity of my students' being, it's a gift I give both them and myself. From that fertile soil of respect is grown love, trust, generosity, and a good time.
And just so we're clear, respect does not mean permissive.
By the way, I find that respecting the sanctity of another relies on self-respect, self-trust, and a willingness to be responsible.
Thanks so much for reading. ❤️