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A Little Respect Can Go A Long Way In The Classroom


'React, Respect, Intersect' photo (c) 2011, New York City Department of Transportation - license:

Today was the third day of school. Three times a year, one of the many formative assessments we do in ninth-grade is have students read two passages to us for a minute each so we can gauge their reading fluency. I always set a couple of chairs just outside the door so the student can read privately and I can keep a close eye on what’s happening in the classroom.

The rest of the class was focused on a writing assignment, and I had asked them to work quietly. While I had taken the first student out to read to me, I noticed through the window that one student (let’s call him “Jim”) was a bit unfocused and trying to talk to another student.

I went to the door and said, loudly, “Jim, please, I had asked people to work quietly while I was outside. Please!”

A couple of minutes later I came back into the room, asked for everyone’s attention, and said:

“I apologize to the Jim and to the class. There was no reason for me to publicly embarrass Jim. I could have easily spoken with him privately. It’s important to me that we all respect each other, and I didn’t show respect to Jim.”

The shocked look on students’ faces was priceless. It was clearly outside of their experience for a teacher do say something like that.

Everyone was totally focused on the writing assessment afterwards — for thirty minutes.

And it wasn’t because of their fear of punishment.

And I’d lay odds that a whole lot of that focus is going to carryover for a long time.

A little respect can go a long way….

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. That is encouraging! Do you find that students catch on to your respectful attitude and treat each other respectfully? As a future teacher I hope to establish a positive and respectful environment. Thanks for sharing a practical example.

  2. Great things happened when I said “i’m sorry!”

  3. I am a student in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. As a future teacher, I hope that I can use that same technique in my classroom. I think the idea of mutual respect is important in every relationship we have. I can remember teachers all through my K-12 education demanding respect in the classroom but never giving it in return. While the demanding technique will work for some students it will not for all. This is such an inspirational and encouraging example! Thank you so much for sharing!

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