Five Ways To Get Your Students and Fellow Teachers To Like and Respect You

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Over the last ten years, I have taught full-time at two schools, and part-time at two as a sub. At every school, some teacher almost always remarked “you are the only person here that gets along with everybody.” And it was true. I have always transcended cliques. Even in high school I did it. And, I have done it without being passive and getting walked on.

Over the years I have wondered why this is the case. I have come up with five reasons why this is the case, so you can use these same tools.

1: Don’t Pre-Judge Others

I am a naturally non-judgmental person. I have pretty strong opinions about certain things. However, I recognize that people are at different places in their lives. My natural “default setting” is to recognize that most people are just trying to get by. I don’t dismiss people unless they give me reason to, and even then, people are always redeemable. In other words, I highly respect people’s autonomy and rights whether I like them or not.

You won’t earn the respect of a peer if you have already judged her to be lazy. That student with a nose ring won’t learn in your class if you have already pegged her as a reject. Personally I don’t care for lots of piercings or tattoos, but I am not going to judge someone because of them. The same holds true for people that dress and act more uptight than I expect.

As a teacher, you have the responsibility to teach every student, period. If you can’t stand half of your students (or all of them!), then that is like a salesman hating every customer. I have two questions for that salesman, “why are you still in that business” and “will you ever make any sales that way?” If you find yourself judging most of your students, or giving up on them, you may need to “re-boot” your way of approaching them.

At my former school I was best friends with the athletic director. I am into running, and played football and baseball in high school. However, since graduating, I haven’t coached or been involved in formal athletics, and that hasn’t been my “crowd” at school. Nonetheless, because of being open to friendship with this fellow teacher, I ended up announcing some football games, and even was the assistant athletic director for two years! Had I pre-judged my potential to be friends with this guy, I would have missed out big time.

I also find that “problem students” often do fine for me. They aren’t perfect, but they try hard and will seek me out when they have issues. Other teachers are mystified as to why these “problems” aren’t problems with me. It is no secret why: I naturally use these tips.

2. Take An Interest In Everybody

The quickest way to earn the love and respect of students and peers (and anybody really) is very simple, and it is to take an interest in them. It can be as simple as asking how someone is doing, and genuinely meaning it. I try to always talk to each student at least once a month on this level. Just stop them during some down time, etc, and check up on them. Most people don’t get much attention. They go through life craving attention. Many kids today have a horrible home life and don’t get much attention from their mom or (if there is one) dad. By giving everyone a little attention, even if you think they may not want it or deserve it, you will get the respect and admiration of everybody.

This is a very, very, important step. If you want to earn everyone’s respect, this is how you do it. You can’t leave out certain people. You have got to make every student and fellow teacher (and administrator) believe they are very important to you. If they feel like they are important to you, then *you* will become important to *them*.

I should note that this has to be genuine. You have to really take an interest and want to do it. If you don’t, then why bother at all? A short, slightly angry, “how are ya?” isn’t going to cut it. If you feel the need to exclude certain people, including many of your students, then go back to “number one.”

3. Pay Attention

Taking an interest is how it starts, but to do so properly, you have to listen and pay attention. If you pay attention to what your peers and students are “into” you can always build rapport with them. This will turn a simple “how are you” from a pleasant exchange to something more meaningful. People volunteer information all the time. They will tell you about themselves and what they value. To connect with them, you need to pay attention to, and recall, this information.

On Fridays some teachers hang out at a local restaurant. I was invited and went. I had fun and got to know some of the teachers better. It was easy because I paid attention to the previous information they volunteered at meetings, and in previous conversations. I knew their interests, etc, which provided me some good conversation starters. Another example is an interaction I had with a student. At the beginning of the year I ask students to tell me some of their interests. One girl mentioned she loves the band Walk The Moon.

Their song “Anna Sun” is one of my favorites. A month later I mentioned I heard the song on the radio going to work. She instantly lit up. Nobody in the school even knows who “Walk the Moon” is, yet I remembered she liked them. Ever since then, the girl has been more eager to contribute in class.

4. Become Familiar With Different Interests

So, you don’t judge, take an interest, and pay attention. But, you can’t bond with somebody if you have no way to carry on a conversation about somebody’s interest.

I find that staying informed is the best way to have a repository of material to discuss. Read the news, watch some TV (not too much), listen to the radio, read blogs, get on Twitter, read Facebook, etc. Stay informed and updated. I go to Yahoo News and read about science, sports, business, etc. I do this because I am genuinely interested in a lot of things. If you aren’t, try to branch out and expand your horizons. I have had great conversations with students and teachers about string theory (physics), The Imagine Dragons (an alternative band), vitamins, music theory, the Cleveland Browns, HTML, and many other topics. I know enough about each topic to carry on an intelligent conversation. Remember, don’t fake knowledge. If you don’t know much about a topic, or reach a point in the discussion where you are over your head, just admit it. It is better to do this than to pretend, and look like an idiot.

5. Just Say It

As a teacher, you are expected to initiate conversations with students. The most outgoing ones will talk to you on their own accord, but most view you are too much of an authority figure to have a conversation with. This means *you* have to initiate conversations.
With fellow teachers, you will often have to take the lead. Many people are naturally shy or reserved. If you want to build rapport, you may have to take the lead.

You just have to “say it.” Granted, you don’t want to talk too much, but most people enjoy short conversations that interest them and provide them with attention

About David Bennett

David Bennett is a teacher, author, and speaker. His articles receive over a million hits per year and have appeared in a variety of publications. He is co-owner of a communication company, and he also writes for The Popular Teen and other sites. Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.