Do Millennials Respect Teachers? – 100th Post!!
The dynamic in the classroom is changing in more ways than we think. The “millennials” – as some have dubbed this generation of learners – are people who are more connected, more tech-savvy, and more collaborative than previous generations, but they also want an open and honest relationship with those in charge, where their opinion is valued. In short, they want to be appreciated as individuals, not just numerically assessed on the basis of their skills in the classroom.
This boils down to the concept of respect. Back when I was in high school, most teachers demanded respect from learners because, well, the teacher was in charge, and that was all there was to it. Any learner who truly wanted to learn just had to deal with whomever was in charge, since that person held all of the information. And in the days where physical encyclopedias were our “internet”, there were not many other options for instruction.
Back to today, teachers have less power than before, since we are no longer the only source of information, and learners know that even if they aren’t engaged during class, they can easily get the information later, from some other forum, if they really want to.
So is respect for teachers no longer necessary? Absolutely not. Respect for one’s elders is still an important concept for learners to understand and apply well into their adulthood. So how do we as teachers get that respect? Easy, we as teachers must demonstrate respect by showing it to the learners first. Like many other interpersonal skills, this needs to be modeled. This can be accomplished in many ways, but they go against a lot of things that we’ve “always done”:
First, get to know your students. Know their interests, their hobbies, their favorite music and movies, and most importantly, know the way they learn best. If you know each student, you can easily individualize instruction for them.
Second, give students options for demonstrating what you want them to know. Allow creativity, ask questions that allow them to have an answer that they can give their personal voice to. Assessments don’t always have to be tests, although testing can be presented as an option along with a menu of other options.
Third, give students options regarding the curriculum itself. Give learners the list of topics that needs to be covered, and let them choose the order.
I understand that there are many issues that can arise from these ideas. For example, what if we teach multiple sections of the same course, and different sections want to learn in different orders? Well, this is why being a “good” teacher today is different from being a good teacher years ago. In fact, the entire job description has changed, despite many teachers’ attempts to fight it.
Above all else, the most important thing is to separate the results in your class (grades and behavior) from the learners as people. Learners need to know that they created the consequences they received, and I refuse to take any situation personally. I still genuinely care about them as people, and giving consequences is simply part of my job.
This is one of the reasons I am glad I flipped my classroom. I now have time to get to know my students. I now can plan for varying assessments that allow learners to express themselves while demonstrating deep understanding. I now have flexibility to have classes of learners watch videos in the order they choose. I now have time to explain consequences and use the explanation to clarify our relationship. As a result, mutual respect is evident in my classes, because I can have conversations with learners about their interests, and still hold them to a standard of expectations that they are more than happy to meet.
It’s been said that the biggest benefit of the flipped classroom model is increased face-to-face teaching time. But I think we can go one step further and improve our person-to-person time.