'React, Respect, Intersect' photo (c) 2011, New York City Department of Transportation - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

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….