Sunday, April 29, 2012

Montessori A to Z: R is for Respect

Respect seems to be getting harder to come by these days. It makes me sad when teachers are disrespectful to each other in school, when they are supposed to be modeling it for the children. Children are not respectful to their parents, and feel that they don't need to be respectful to us. Parents are also disrespectful to the schools and teachers. Children pick up on all of this and we are fighting what sometimes feels like a losing battle.

We only have the children for a few hours of every day. The skills with which we empower them in that short time are often negated by the real world around them. Yet we persist in our efforts. Eventually, we can power through those negative influences and be victorious on the other side.

To gain respect from others, you must first give respect. Respect the child. Acknowledge and validate his feelings. Treat him kindly. Be firm, yet fair in your expectations. Empower him with independence. Honor his personal space. These young ones don't know how to ask for it, but this is what they really want out of the adults in their lives. The more consistently you demonstrate respect for the child, the more likely you are to get it back from him.

Be respectful to other teachers and administration. We all get cranky with each other, especially following a bad day. We don't like it when other people criticize how we do things. We may have a bit of the green-eyed monster when someone else can pull off an activity that is failing in our own rooms. It is hard to share space with other adults. But those young eyes are watching us, so we need to treat each other the way that we expect those young ones to treat us and each other.

The hardest part at times is to be respectful to parents who are disrespectful to you. Parents are out to protect their children and can often misdirect anger and frustration at you. It can be hard to take, but you have to try to take a step back and look at where the parent is coming from. And then it is usually best to try to take a break and let everyone calm down before delving too deeply into the issue.

My biggest pet peeve is when people are really late to school. We barely have a three-hour work period in our schedule as it is. When people are late, it disrupts the children and makes the tardy child out of sync. Plus, being on time is an important life skill to learn. I am not the most timely person, myself, but I try to keep it within a ten-minute time frame. Again, children are modeling what we are doing and saying.

Take some time to reflect on ways that you may be inadvertently disrespectful to people in your life. Think of a time that someone disrespected you. Have you done that to someone else? What are some ways that you can demonstrate respect to your peers and children?

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