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The Respect Factor II

Photo by Daniel Harden

I'm working on a book that will absolutely transform education. It will contain valuable perspectives of my journey as an educator, reading coach, and assistant principal. There will be practical action steps that will help transform the mindsets of individuals, families, communities, and schools.

Here is another excerpt from the book, The Educational Formula.

The message of honoring and respecting adults can be taught in many different ways. Growing up in a Haitian household, respect was non-negotiable. If a visiting adult entered our home, it was expected for the children to greet the grown up with a kiss on the cheek. The same rule applied if our family visited someone else’s house. Failure to do so resulted in serious consequences. In terms of school, I remember being in school in Haiti, whenever the teacher or any adult walked in the room, everyone in the class had to stand until the adult, whether it was the principal or the janitor, directed the class to sit down.

When I migrated to Miami at the age of ten, I quickly realized that those simple and powerful gestures were non-existent at the school I was attending. That was one of many culture shocks I had to adjust to. In 2012, I went to Kenya, Africa on a mission trip for a teacher exchange support program. At the time, I was a veteran teacher in the United States for about six years. I shadowed a Kenyan teacher who taught a classroom of about fifty students. The minute I walked into the room, all fifty students immediately stood up and remained standing. For a split second, I was confused as to why they got up, but I quickly had a flashback and recalled my childhood custom in Haiti. The African teacher smiled and reminded me that they won’t sit down until I directed them to. Nostalgia took my emotions hostage and reminded me of how much educators should be respected and valued. I politely asked the scholars to have a seat. I spent the entire day with that teacher interacting with different classes. We didn’t have any issues with students misbehaving. Imagine the same scenario with fifty students in an American classroom.

When I returned to Miami, I incorporated the same system in my classroom. Initially, there was some push back by the students because I was the only teacher in the entire school who was implementing the greeting. Shortly after, it became the norm for my scholars. Needless to say, respect, classroom management, and the culture in my space evolved to a higher level. Trust me, I had my share of students who made the transition difficult, but they were the minority. They eventually learned how to get in line the hard way. My job would've been easier if these young people had guardians who enforced respect as a core value in their homes. Ultimately, my students’ academic achievement increased tremendously that school year because distractions were replaced by bell to bell instructions. Lastly, the adults who substituted my class didn't have a lot of issues because the level of respect was established and understood. The students showed up for me whether I was in the classroom or not. Respect for every adult was standard, they didn't want to disappoint me, and also knew that there would be consequences if I received bad reports. Parents and guardians, this is the type of powerful impact you should have on your kids. In doing so, you will create a fruitful experience for everyone who partners with you to help you educate your children.

Berwick Augustin is the founder of Evoke180, a leading publishing company that also specializes in Haitian-Creole translations. He is an educational consultant and keynote speaker who embodies two decades of experience as a writer, teacher, and assistant principal. Berwick is the author, most recently, of bilingual books, Days, Months, and Seasons in Haitian-Creole, The Haitian-Creole Alphabet-and 1803 The Haitian Flag.

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