If you walk into any school or any classroom, one of the expectations you will probably notice with have something to do with respect. Respect is incorporated into school and classroom rules, expectations, outcomes and possibly even mission statements. Respect is taught and valued in our education system. It is desired and acknowledged in daily routines. Many people; educators, parents, community members lament that “the problems today exist because students don’t have enough respect.” So the question becomes, how exactly do we instill respect in our students to help them become successful, productive citizens of our society?
Many classrooms and schools attempt to teach respect through implicit instruction, modeling, examples, scenarios and role play. While this is most likely an important part of teaching students what respect is, it certainly isn’t enough by itself. Instead, we should be teaching students what it means to have a “respectful mind”, (Gardner, 2008) by incorporating it into classroom work, activities, and projects. After all, in the work world, we are expected to be able to interact respectfully with our colleagues and fellow employees, so it only makes sense to teach our students to do the same through practice. But how might this actually look in a classroom?
One of the ultimate goals I have this year to help my students gain a better understanding of the respectful mind through collaboration and connections outside of the classroom walls. I use a lot of projects with my students that require them to work collaboratively in groups. This type of work helps them understand that in order to successfully finish a project and develop a high quality product, group members must be respectful of each other and of the process they have to use in working together. I want to extend this experience so that students are working collaboratively with students in other classrooms as well as outside of our school building. Our team, which consists of two literacy teachers, one math teacher, one science, and one social studies teacher, has been working to develop an interdisciplinary unit that will incorporate aspects from all subject areas. Two aspects of the project that will have students working with students beyond their own classroom groups include asynchronous work with partners in a literacy and social studies class to develop an informational flyer about the region they will be studying (encompassing ecosystems and culture of a region of the world) and connecting with a student from that region through blogging.
This project will see students working together with students outside the classroom walls to develop content that fosters a better understanding of another student’s culture. Students will ask questions to get information about the environment and culture of other parts of the world. Students will then engage in virtual discussions through blogging and responses using a site such as Kidblog. Students will be responsible for different pieces of collaborative projects to help develop and understanding of the importance of their role in completion of a group project. Through these activities, we can provide authentic experiences for our students.
Additionally, we would like to use a culminating activity where students apply what they have learned by doing an activity such as Mystery Skype. Through this activity, students can use clues from what they have learned and the work of other groups to determine where in the world the person they are Skyping with is located.
Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay describe a seven step plan for the process of “flattening the classroom” in their interview on FutureofEducation.com. In the taxonomy of global connection, they describe the 5 levels of global connection: Level 1: Intra-connection; within the classroom, level 2: Inter-connection; within the school or district, level 3: Managed global connection, level 4: student to student with teacher management, and level 5: student to student with student management (Future of Education, 2014). So far, I have achieved level 1, within my classroom. With this interdisciplinary unit, we will be able to move to level 2 and level 3 by developing connections with classrooms outside of our school environment, possibly across the world. By having students make connections with students from other environments and cultures, we will create opportunities for our students to develop understandings about the lives of people around the world. This will foster respect for other cultures through real-world experiences. It will also provide opportunities for students to understand their importance when working with a group who rely on them to complete their portion of a project. Giving students opportunities to see how their choices and actions affect the “good of the group” helps them develop a better understanding of the importance of respect. These activities can also help develop their “ethical mind” through interactions with people from other cultures and being responsible for their part of a group project.
By using projects and activities to provide opportunities for students to practice respect and ethical behavior, we are giving our students real-world experiences for when they leave the world of education and join the world of work. These practice opportunities are more effective than just instructing students in the importance of these skills. If we are to truly equip our students to be successful members of society, our classrooms need to move beyond the classroom walls into the world. With the technologies available today, we have the perfect opportunity to enhance the educational experiences of our students to be more authentic to prepare them as valuable members of the society they live in.
Future of Education. (2014). Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis on “flattening classrooms”. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/RVZuwIhjQvA .
Gardner, Howard. (2008). Five minds of the future. Boston, Massachusetts. Harvard Business School Publishing.
Mosca, T. (2015). Mystery skype; Connecting classrooms around the world. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/eRf7_nX74PA .