It’s not uncommon for classroom educators to find themselves feeling, not necessarily disrespected, but certainly longing for some semblance of respect in their line of work. Whether it’s the pay disparity or the overloaded classroom sizes, maybe the challenges of defensive parents, or the expectations of standardized testing, the reasons for why a teacher might find themselves wishing for greater respect can come from any number of reasons. The real challenge comes from really having very little control over some of these areas, like state or national funding, ever-changing educational legislation, or abrasive parents. Ultimately, there is very little a teacher can do in certain areas to feel like the work they put into their classroom attains the level of respect it likely deserves.
And yet, there are some areas where teachers have more control than they know. A large part of this comes from simply commanding and demanding respect when the moment is right.
This was just such the situation for Lisa Salmon, a primary school English teacher from Leichhardt, Australia.
Salmon admits to being hardworking, dedicated to her class that took place every Saturday, developing an environment where her students were constantly learning and engaging with the material in a meaningful and productive way.
And yet, like clockwork, every day, she would find herself feeling angered, frustrated, and upset: “…each week, the school Headmaster would storm into [her] class, scream at the kids, and disrupt [her] lesson”. It was not only undermining Salmon’s work and classroom environment, but it made students scared and uncomfortable, uprooting the classroom dynamic.
After coming across Crucial Conversations, she had come to some key realizations. “He had employed me as a qualified teacher and should respect me for my time and efforts…it was my responsibility to create and protect an environment where kids feel safe,” she said, and most importantly, “I liked my job and I deserved respect and autonomy.”
She felt it was time to try a new approach. Positioning herself at the door, she blocked him from entering, firmly and resolutely declaring “I realize you want to speak with the children; please wait until the end of the lesson.”
The change was immediate. His demeanor had softened, and his approach became more respectful, he returned at the end of the period and gave the announcements in a more gentle and kind tone, one that reverberated into his interactions with her students.
And this all came about because she decided to simply demand the respect that was already owed to her because of the hard work and dedication that Salmon brought forth to her profession, every single day. While an outright outburst would likely have had negative consequence and would have been counterproductive to her efforts, remaining silent on the issue was simply not an option. There was an important conversation that needed to be had, and that’s exactly what she went for.