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  • Writer's pictureAaron Daffern

Take CHARGE of the Classroom #8: Respect

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

This is post #8 in a 20-post series designed to disrupt outdated behavior management models and help you create the classroom culture of your dreams. This post contains excerpts from my book Take CHARGE of the Classroom.

Students will rise or fall to the level of your expectations. Called the Pygmalion effect (positive) and the Golem effect (negative) in psychology, student behaviors and achievement are heavily influenced by the attitudes and expectations of the teacher.

Do you want your students to act better? Do you want them to regulate themselves and their emotions? Believe they can and you’ll go a long way toward making your dream a reality.

Many schools and districts include phraseology about high expectations for all students in their mission statements. Too often, however, those lofty goals don’t extend past academics. While teachers routinely hold their students to rigorous learning expectations, they sometimes simultaneously hold a belief that erodes trust in the students’ abilities to act appropriately.

You get paid to teach history or mathematics, physics or elementary social studies. Whatever your content area expertise is, there’s a hidden curriculum you are also responsible for. Your job is to teach your students not only how to read, write, compute, or analyze socio-political theories, you have also been hired to teach them how to act.

The expectations you hold for your students will tell much about the results you’ll achieve. If you expect them to act like hoodlums, then don’t be surprised by the anarchy you engender. If you expect them to demonstrate decorum and civility, that’s a wonderful start.

Many educators fail to take charge of the classroom because of a huge assumption. They presume that their students know how to behave and are simply choosing not to. While that might be the case in rare situations, for the most part students are behaving the best they know how. If their best isn’t good enough, then it’s up to you to show them how to improve.

What can you do tomorrow?

Evaluate your rigor. Take an inventory of the tasks, grouping strategies, and learning activities that you employed over the last few weeks. Are they the highest-level, most rigorous ones you could have used or did you water them down because you didn’t think your students could handle more?

Expect more. In the same way, how do your students rise to the level of your behavioral expectations? If they act like animals, is that because you expect them to do so?

What does this look like in the classroom?

Students are held to high expectations, as evidenced by:

· Being assigned rigorous tasks that do not water down the curriculum;

· Receiving thoughtful instruction on how to act; and

· Being spoken to with dignity and respect.


There are groups of people, whether they identify by race, culture, sexual orientation, or gender, that are minimized, slighted, assaulted, and handcuffed by poverty, violence, and institutional discrimination. To blindly claim that everyone is equal is optimistically naive at best and a tool to perpetuate evil at worst.

Claiming that race is irrelevant is like believing that gravity is just a human construct. Try jumping off a tall building and see whether or not gravity truly exists. Both race and gravity are alive and well and to ignore either is dangerous.

A solid approach to this sensitive topic, especially if you hail from a privileged upbringing, is not to avoid it but cherish it. The culture that students bring through the door with them shapes who they are and how they think and learn. Being blind to students’ background, whether it be racial, cultural, linguistic, or religious, is harmful.

There are many ways for teachers to integrate inclusive practices into their pedagogy (Hammond, 2014). A solid first step is to think about deep culture and to consider its group orientation toward collectivism or individualism. In America, the dominant culture is individualistic, with an emphasis on direct communication styles and internal guidance. Students growing up in this type of culture, myself included, define themselves more on internal factors rather than external or community influences.

Collectivist cultures, which are prevalent in many African-American, Latino, Pacific Islander, Native American, and Asian communities, are quite different. Rather than independence, these cultures tend to put greater value on interdependence. Students growing up in a collectivist culture place a large degree of importance on cooperative learning and relationships. Maintaining social harmony, getting along with others, and communicating indirectly are hallmarks of these influences.

What can you do tomorrow?

Think about strengths. List the cultural value that each child brings to the classroom with them. Think about their primary language, religion, family, traditions, and recreational activities.

Celebrate. Plan a few ways to integrate cultural strengths, such as diversifying your classroom library or having students bring cultural artifacts.

What does this look like in the classroom?

Students’ cultural and linguistic heritage is valued, as evidenced by:

· Diverse environmental print and a classroom library collection that reflects the student population;

· Engagement strategies that maximize cultural strengths (e.g., movement, call-and-response); and

· Artifacts from students’ culture on display.

To read more posts in this series, click here.



Hammond, Z. (2014). Culturally responsive teaching and the brain: Promoting authentic engagement and rigor among culturally and linguistically diverse students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

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