Respect in the K-12 Classroom

My recent post about respect in leadership has generated an avalanche of emails on respect in the classroom. So this post is an attempt on how to define Respect for students in the K-12 Classroom. You know that at times it is hard to explain these values and character traits to students. So here goes…

Respect is defined as having high regard and actions that demonstrate honor and esteem for another person or entity.

Here is a definition that can be used with your Middle School Students:

Respect is a very special quality. It is a basic feeling between human beings. If you have respect, you are considerate, courteous, and caring. Respect is so important that songwriters even wrote a song about it.


“R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find out what it means to me”

Student Engagement
In order to get students involved in the lesson I suggest that you play Aretha Franklin’s song (as noted above) and then open the class by asking what respect means to them. Here are some questions that might help you initiate a lesson on respect:

  1. What does respect mean to you?
  2. Do friends demonstrate respect to one another? In what ways?
  3. Is respect important in the family? Why? And how is respect demonstrated between siblings, child to parent, etc.?


Respect is an attitude of caring. There are many types of respect and all of them are important.

There is self-respect, and respect for others. There is respect for property and respect for our environment. All types of respect are important.

Self-respect means that you value yourself. You feel that you are a worthwhile person and you have self-esteem. You count on people to treat you in a kind and caring way.

If you respect someone else, you are interested in them as a person. You honor and value them. You act in a kind and caring ways toward them. This kind of respect shows up in what you say and how you say it. If you respect someone you will speak in a kind and caring way. Your tone of voice and your behavior will have a nice quality when you are respectful.

Respect for property is how you treat things. It takes careful attention to deal with your own things as well as other people’s things in a thoughtful considerate way. It is treating other people’s property and public property as if they were your own.

‘Respect for all life’ is also very important. This means you respect Planet Earth. You care for the environment, and you are kind to all living things. You can show this kind of respect by not littering and not wasting Mother Nature’s resources, such as water.

Without respect there would be a lot more rudeness in the world. No one would care about anyone else. Respect makes our world more peaceful and it makes all of our relationships more friendly and more fun.

How Do We Demonstrate Respect?

You can practice and demonstrate respect every day. What you do comes back to you so follow this simple law of cause (what you do) and consequence (comes back to you). Think about how you want to be treated and treat others in the same way.

You can demonstrate respect when you see older people. If an older person is standing on the bus and you are sitting, a respectful thing to do is give them your seat. Older people deserve a little extra respect and appreciation. Because you are younger, you have more energy and more strength. It is important to be sensitive to the needs of your elders and always try to help them.

You can practice respect by speaking quietly and not interrupting when others are speaking. You can listen with respect by staying focused on the speaker. You can act with respect by noticing the feelings and needs of others.

You can also show respect by kindness towards animals and all of Earth’s creatures. Feed and care for your own pets and be kind to all living things.

Remember that you are a center of influence. Your words and deeds make a difference. What you say and do, and the way you say and do it can influence others. If you demonstrate respect to everyone and everything you become a positive model for other people. You will influence them in a positive way and your life will make a difference.


Ask students to journal for a few minutes at the end of every day on some act of respect they participated in or saw demonstrated by others during the course of that day.

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