Thursday, April 26, 2012

Respect in the Classroom, Respect in Life

When photographing some of my manipulatives, I couldn't help but photograph the state of my room.  Now, I try to police the floors as best I can, but middle school teachers share their rooms, and often times there are greater issues than cleanliness.  However!  There are a few stray papers, and there are the scene in these pictures, which is beyond slovenly.  The number of students that sneak food into the classroom is astonishing, and the wrappers and crumbs end up everywhere.  It is disgusting. 

Is cleanliness a form of respect?  Is filth a sign of moral corruption?  It certainly can lead to disease and germs, but is it correlated with incivility as well? 

When I taught in my first school, I felt as if I was making a difference in kids' lives.  It was a tough school, but my students, by and large, were eager to learn.  That school, while not in a modern facility, and a far cry from my corporate days in the Woolworth building, was reasonably clean, and the neighborhood, again, was tolerably maintained.  In that case, safety did not corrolate with neatness, since it was there that, during my tenure, a double drive-by shooting occurred and one of my students was, let me choose my words carefully, slaughtered by another student.

In the school where the above photos were taken, the neighborhood is equally garbage-strewn.  Lack of attention in your surroundings seeps into inattentiveness towards your actions.  If you don't respect your own and others' property, it is fair to expect disrespect towards teachers.  Some have written about how clean, modern facilities leads children to higher achievement.  I know that clean, modern workbooks do not necessarily lead to good academics.  I know that investing in technology, which is easily broken if handled carelessly, is a poor choice for valuable expenditures.  Keys are popped off, cords are stepped on, they are dropped, all the while kids feel like it's a toy and they can visit during instructional time.  Look at this collection of destroyed books from the same classroom, and tell me if you'd be comfortable giving this same group of students laptop computers.

Can be children be taught respect?  Sure.  What I'd like to know is, since I need to teach them motivation, and I need to teach them self-restraint, and I have to teach them math, is it humanly possible to also teach respect?  Next year, I'm going to start off the year very slowly, which is easy to say in April.  Next September, with the pre-testing and the assemblies and the push to keep to the pacing calendar, it will probably be more rush-rush and lessons in respect, restraint, motivation, etc, will fall to the wayside.  Does anyone in middle school have any success with balancing all of these responsibilities?


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