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ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show

2016 ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show

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Books in Translation

September 2011 | Volume 69 | Number 1
Promoting Respectful Schools

EL Study Guide

Teresa K. Preston

Respect. Every student—and every teacher—wants it, but too often, it's in short supply. How can students learn to demonstrate respect in a world where selfish behavior, mean-spirited stereotyping, bullying, and violent conflict are commonplace? The authors in the September issue of EL discuss ways educators can prevent disrespectful behavior and respond to it when it does occur.

The Bully Problem

When you think of a bully, what sort of person do you imagine? Do you think of someone like Nelson Muntz from The Simpsons, a social misfit taking pleasure in others' pain? Or maybe you think of a group of popular girls who stay on top of the social scene by deliberately excluding others. Whatever image you imagine, it's probably only partly accurate, according to research cited by Philip C. Rodkin in "Bullying—And the Power of Peers". Bullies might be male or female, popular or unpopular, and their relationships with their victims don't always fit into neat categories.

  • Think about the bullying incidents you've witnessed at school. What did you notice about the bullies? The victims? Their relationships to each other? How well do your observations jibe with Rodkin's research?
  • How have you responded to the bullying that you've observed? In light of Rodkin's research, as well as the comments from students in "What Students Say About Bullying" by Stan Davis and Charisse Nixon, how might you change your approach?
  • What bullying prevention programs does your school have in place? How effective have they been? How might they be improved? (See the section titled "Using Peers to Intervene" in Rodkin's article and the section titled "How Can Adults Help?" in Davis and Nixon's article for findings related to what does and doesn't work.)

The Classroom Climate

In "What's So Hard About Win-Win?", Jane Bluestein encourages teachers to build a classroom climate in which everyone's needs are respected. In doing so, she says, teachers will encounter fewer power struggles and less student misbehavior.

  • What is so hard about win-win? What do you see as some of the barriers to adopting such an approach?
  • Bluestein suggests several strategies for developing a win-win environment. The first is to offer students choices. Make a list of ways you could give students a choice. Try to come up several different kinds of choices, some involving curriculum, others involving work style or assignments.

Talking About It

As tempting as it may be to avoid conflict altogether, several EL authors encourage teachers to do just the opposite. By organizing open and respectful discussions of racial conflicts ("Confronting Racial and Religious Tensions"); religious beliefs ("Putting a Face to Faith"); and other controversial topics ("Discussions That Drive Democracy"), teachers prepare students to tackle these issues.

  • What do you think about having open discussions of controversial topics in school? What do you see as the benefits and drawbacks of having such conversations?
  • How do you respond when racial, religious, or other similar tensions arise in your school or classroom? If you chose to address the issue directly, how did you go about doing so, and how did students react?
  • In "Discussions That Drive Democracy", Diana Hess describes a model called town meeting for helping students talk about controversial topics. How well would this approach work with your students and your curriculum? What are some topics you might have students address in this way?

Start with the Teachers

Respect isn't just about the students. According to Marie-Nathalie Beaudoin ("Respect—Where Do We Start?"), teachers also need to feel respected if they are to create a positive environment for students.

  • Beaudoin states that "the buzz in the staff lunchroom can be as telling of school culture as the suspension rate." What kind of talk predominates in your staff lunchroom or in teacher workrooms? If the talk is predominately negative, what are some positive and productive topics that you can talk about? Would a "no-student-talk" policy be helpful?
  • If you're an administrator, what can you do to improve teacher morale? Think of some concrete steps you can take to show appreciation and support for teachers in your school.
  • If you're a teacher, what would help you feel respected? How can you demonstrate respect for your colleagues?


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