A Matter of Respect

I love to increase my knowledge of student behavior and I continue to seek out new ways to keep students engaged. The year I transferred to a new elementary school to become a Science Resource I immediately noticed that behaviors were interrupting my lessons as I went into classrooms.

According to our 2015 Student Climate Survey, only 28% of our students felt respected by their peers. Our school culture of respect was at an all- time low. Behaviors were interrupting learning and the issue of respect was at the core of the problem. Students who were respectful and wanted to do their best were discouraged and some followed and responded by going along with the established behaviors.

Using what I learned in CHAMPS, PBIS, and Action Research, I developed a plan for creating a culture of respect amongst students and teachers at my school. I met with my principal and explained how my students would take the lead to inform our stakeholders of the statistics and the need for change. Once the plan was put into place we would report back with the results of the Respect Campaign at the end of the year.

A key to our success was the willingness of the teachers to come on board by enforcing the CHAMPS and PBIS aspects and maintaining a constant dialogue in the classroom about respect. Our plan had three phases:

Phase 1– Make posters to place around the school. After my teaching lessons on respect to my students, posters were created and strategically placed around the campus. The posters were displayed to offer constant reminders for our students of how to show respect.

Phase 2– Write and create original commercials to place on morning show. The commercials for the morning show were used to model for our students what respect looked like. My fifth graders of The Respect Committee felt that maybe we spoke about respect, but did not model for them what respect looked like. The students wrote original scripts and brain stormed ideas. Each commercial idea was discussed and critiqued. They utilized the videos to “show” what respect looked like. I integrated technology as I collaborated with the Media Specialist to train my students on how to use the equipment.  

Phase 3– Create lessons to go into all classrooms to teach students about respect. My fifth graders researched the cognitive development of younger children to make sure that their lessons were appropriate. In delivering the lessons the fifth graders found out just how hard a teachers job was. They also had the realization that they were the leaders as Respect Campaign Committee members and that the younger students viewed them as role models. As they left one session Brianna stated that she saw the “light in the student’s eyes” as she taught her part of the lesson. “I really feel like I am making a difference.” The impact from teacher to student to student was a powerful moment.

Each phase evolved naturally, and connected to the other to create the most impact upon the culture of the school. The largest piece of evidence to show impact and learning was the new Climate Survey results for the 2016 school year. We now have 39 % of our students that feel respected among their peers. While it is not as high as it could be, it is an improvement. The fifth grade students cheered as I shared the new data. They also asked “what next?” They realize that it does not end because the data improved, it is only the beginning. We have begun to create even more components to our Respect Campaign for the next year.

Tina Cook is a graduate of Saint Leo University and National Board Certified in the field of Early Childhood Generalist. She began her teaching career in Inverness, Florida at Inverness Primary. She then moved to Hillsborough County and has taught at Mintz Elementary, Symmes Elementary and is currently a Gifted Teacher at Burney Elementary in Plant City. She has been a Title Reading Teacher, and a Science Resource Teacher. She taught every grade level except Kindergarten. She fell in love with teaching science in the classroom. Based on her love for science, she decided to challenge herself professionally and become a Science Resource Teacher and later utilized her skills to become a Gifted Teacher. The philosophy “You can’t reach a child’s mind until you have reached their heart” still continues to push her to teach and give her best every day.

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