Wednesday’s Words

Before I get started thinking out loud, let’s continue yesterday’s theme into today for a brief moment:

Made you laugh…admit it.

On the theme of words, I have been mulling the distinction of two words and the very, very subtle nuances between them–if there are any at all.

Respect vs. Honor

Put that way, they sound as if they’re about to duel with swords and gloves. In processing some classroom/school situations in my journal, these two compadres have come up several times, and have gotten me thinking.

What’s the difference? And why does it matter? A few thoughts.

The foundation of every university teacher prep program is to insist that when teachers treat students with respect, we build an atmosphere of respect in the classroom. This results, hopefully, in students responding to the teacher with respect. Sometimes it isn’t that easy, given that some of our students having never experienced true respect in their home lives. Those are the students we sometimes see as defiant or rude, when in fact, oftentimes they simply don’t have enough experience with respect to demonstrate it back. Some teachers, true to their root word, will teach or discuss respect to help the student learn, and some will simply yell and scream until the student gets worse and worse until the teacher insists there is no respect and make the situation feel like a failure from all angles.

Listen, this is the real world here, not unicorn fairy land where every teacher and every student is perfect. I’ve seen both ends. I call it as I see it.

What I’ve pondered if is teacher programs, in general, and classroom teachers, in specific, should start considering (in addition to respect) the idea of teaching the concept of honoring. Not honoring as in “you earned first place” or “you’re a student of the month”, but honoring as in honoring the individual and where they’ve come from, who they are, their situation and experience and simple being.

I know this sounds simplistic, but here’s why I’m stuck thinking on it. We always hear that respect is something you have to earn, something that comes as the result of something else. Maybe it’s from the greed in our nation’s capitalistic roots that says I can’t give you something that you should give me (for free) as well. Maybe it’s because we feel the need to be validated in order to validate someone else. Or maybe–and this is my strongest leaning–it’s because it’s a sort of silent litmus test on whether or not you can comply with a “test” of sorts. Do you know how to show respect in society at large? Were you taught well enough to be able to ‘give’ respect so you ‘earn’ it back?

Why does respect have to be something with a prerequisite, a requirement? If we want more of it back, why don’t we give more of it out?

This is where honoring comes into play. There is no prerequisite with honoring. I don’t need you to honor me in order to honor you. I simply choose to live my life (teacher or not) by honoring the essence of the people with whom I interact with. In honoring you, I recognize you in the exact state you are surviving in. I honor you as a fellow human being, even if you yell in class and bring me grief. I honor the essence of the person you are, the person your family and environment and life circumstances have created you to be, as you are, right here in front of me. I don’t require you to jump through a respect hoop because you may have never been taught respect, and despite the suffocating pressure to teach you a bunch of language standards, I have come to believe that teaching you to be a stronger and more beautiful human is far more important. When I honor you, I don’t judge where you come from, what you look like, how often you complete homework, how you react to others. I simply see the human under all the other weight that you carry, and allow that to shine.

I know this sounds a little extra fluffy, but we’re not in a world of reading, writing, and arithmetic being enough. We have students who’ve not been taught to be humans, and being a good reader does not make you a functional, successful, and relatable human. I don’t have the answers, but I can work with what I have.

Am I overthinking this? Is there such a distinction between respect and honor? Remember, these are just my thoughts I’d love to hear yours.

In the meantime, namaste…the good in me honors (without necessity of reciprocation) the good in you.


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