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and Measuring Respect in a Primary School
Below are notes from and excerpts of a telephone conversation I had with a schoolteacher. I recorded the conversation with her permission so we could both learn from her first experience at testing some of my ideas about using mutual respect as the basis for managing a classroom. In this case the class was a group of second graders in a Florida public school. The teacher I spoke with was taking the place of the regular teacher, so it was her first day with these children.
As far as I know this is the first time students have ever been asked how much they felt respected by their teacher on a scale of 0-10. The results are extremely encouraging for those who believe it is possible to teach children without resorting to threats and punishment. I would like to see someone design a formal research study modeled after this example, and I would be happy to cooperate in the project.
The teacher starts her description of the process by saying:
After that she told the kids that later she would ask them how much they felt respected by her, and she would tell them how much she felt respected by them. They said "okay."
So around 10 in the morning she stopped class to do the respect survey. She told them to hold up their fingers to show how much they felt respected by her. She said 10 fingers means the highest respect and two closed fists would equal zero.
To her surprise all the children held up all ten fingers. When she asked why, they gave her specific reasons such as "You don't write our name on the blackboard like the other teachers do when we are talking." "You come and help us when we have questions." "You don't yell at us or say you will send us to the principal." "You helped so-and-so when he couldn't understand something."
The she asked if they wanted to know how much she felt respected by them. They said "yes." She said about a six. They looked very disappointed and they asked why it was so low. She told them that sometimes people were talking when she was talking or when others were asking questions, etc. She said "Do you think you can raise your scores?" They gave her an enthusiastic "Yes!"
Then she asked "Now how much do you feel respected by your classmates?" She got a wide variety of scores and asked the kids to explain their scores. They said things like "Well, so-and-so was pulling on my hair even when I asked him to stop it."
After lunch, she took another survey. She still received all tens. The students still had a wide range of scores for each other, but generally the scores were higher. When she told them she now felt respected by them an 8, they looked proud of themselves, but still were not satisfied. She asked if they thought they could raise it even higher, again she got a very enthusiastic "YES!"
She said from that moment on till the end of the day she had one of the quietest, most well-behaved classes she has ever taught. She said the children were self-monitoring each other. If someone talked too loudly, the others would motion to them to be quiet. She never did another survey because there was no need to. The children could sense how well they were doing, and it was clear they had risen to the occasion.
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