I was recently asked to talk to a group of teachers about how to both approach their pupils with Respect and how to also inculcate the ethic of Respect into those same children. This particular group of teachers were teaching 6-8 year olds.

Tricky? Of course just about anything to do with young children is tricky. I know! My youngest son is 7. To get inside that mind and get some sort of idea of how he thinks and sees the world he lives in is a daily challenge. One thing is a very clear. His thought processes are very much his own and I have an idea that just as I wrestle to come to grips with his thought processes so he equally wrestles with coming to grips with the way that my mind works. The challenge is equally great for both of us and contains huge learning opportunities for both of us. This is the nub of the matter. All those involved with the learning processes of children – this means parents as well as their so-called formal teachers – need to realise – make real – the dialogic nature of the teaching process. Yes the teacher teaches and if the teacher is not open to learning from the pupil and especially young children, then the whole process dies and does not come even close to realising its potential value for either teacher or pupil.

The first question for any teacher or parent in any teaching event is simply this: “What can I learn from what and also from those whom I am about to teach? What can I learn about myself?” So it is with this conundrum of “teaching” Respect.

It is probably safe to say that no one will seriously argue with the proposition that young children learn a great deal, perhaps most, through the process of imitation. They copy that which is in their immediate vicinity. This should scare both parents and teachers half to death. The question which all educators needs must ask themselves is this “Am I worth copying? Do I have Self –respect” Ouch and again Ouch!

As is my wont in my wrestling with concepts when approaching this subject I started with looking at the word “Respect” itself. What does it actually mean? What does the word itself imply beyond the way it is generally used? Let us look at the construction of the word. What are its component parts? The first part is the prefix ‘re’. This is widely used in English and has the connotation of ‘again’. The second bit, ‘spect’ comes from the Latin and basically means ‘to see’ (as in ‘spectator’ ‘spectacles‘). Put them together and we have “to see again”. This is the essential basic energy of the word.

This is the challenge for the teacher. It will be very difficult for the teacher to teach the young pupil anything about the notion of Respect until the teacher is willing to “see themselves again” and again and again and yet again. In other words is the teacher willing and able to stand in front of the mirror, perhaps literally, and look at themselves and be OK with what they see. Is the teacher able to stand in front of the mirror and acknowledge that they might make mistakes, be inconsiderate, just be downright silly, be capable of all the unproductive behaviours that we are capable of as human beings and still be OK with what they see?

This is not as complex as it sounds. It is a given that the teacher cannot teach the three R’s – Reading, ’Riting, ‘Rithmetic until they have a pretty sound grasp of those skills. The whole matter of Respect is no different!

To attain this grasp of the notion of Respect requires a high level of self-development and this is the crux question for the teacher and parent. How much Self-respect does the teacher have? Before attempting to teach the pupil, ask the teacher must ask themselves: “What do I know about ME? How much self – development work have I done? Do I like what see in the mirror despite and perhaps, because of, its flaws?” Until the teacher/parent has embarked upon this often rocky and sometimes painful path of engaging themselves and their own Self-respect then I am not sure that they are qualified to either teach or demand Respect from their children.

This is the old question. Do you want something from Life? Good. Then ask yourself “How much am I giving out?” You want Respect? Great. Then go learn about You!