Yesterday morning, fresh out of a 9am lecture, it finally hit me how I was going to address an issue I have struggled with for many years - you. To be more precise, your respect for me. This came about when one of our lecturers decided to call out a student on passing her phone around during her lecture. The accused student very calmly told her that she was just passing the register. Our lecturer disregarded this and asked her again to stop passing her phone around, to which the student repeated that it was just the register. In a huff, the lecturer defensively told her to not pass phones anyway and continued on with the lecture. On the outside this situation seems normal, doesn't it? Teacher catches student doing something she shouldn't be, student is sent away with a warning. This may have worked when we were angsty teenagers dying to get out of class, but now at University, a place where we've all chosen to be and where they remind us that "we're adults now", it's just not on. Here's why this short two minute interaction bothered me so much and why I feel the need to finally address this longstanding issue.
Our lecturer lacked respect for us.
"Why is that even important? Respect your elders." That's probably something that you're thinking right about now, but it's this "respect your elders" mentality that I have a problem with. It is this particular saying that has allowed many of the educators in my life to be disrespectful and hypocritical.
In the anecdote above, I believe the lecturer was being disrespectful towards the student out of spite. She was made to look foolish in front of the rest of the students having called someone out for doing what they were meant to be doing: passing the register. So in an attempt to retain whatever power she had over us, she dismissed her mistake as if nothing was said, without an apology. Had she taken a moment and said anything along the lines of "sorry, my mistake", the situation would have diffused immediately and the lecture would have continued on as normal. However, continuing on with an air of superiority, meant that the entire room of students lost respect for her and in turn began to completely zone out of her lecture. In moments like this, I think it's important for our educators to lead by example. All of us in that room understand the importance of respecting the lecturer by giving them our attention, but we in turn expect to be respected as an audience too. Had she taken a moment to apologise for her mistake out of respect for the student, something she most likely would have done if she was lecturing to a room of adults, there would be no problem. The expectation of us is that we are adults in a professional learning environment and yet we are continuously chastised as children.
This brings me on to hypocrisy. Over the past few months, at every single one of my lectures, we have been made to sign a register. In one lecture we're made to sign it twice to ensure we don't leave during the break. The premise of signing the register is to make sure that our attendance does not drop below a certain percentage. As young adults, I alongside many others, understand the importance of our attendance and the benefits of each lecture. However, when a lecture is interrupted by our course convenor telling us off and then making us sign a register to prove our attendance, it makes us feel like school children being punished. This stern talking-to was then followed up by an email from our convenor explicitly telling us that we are adults and that we need to be responsible for our own attendance. By telling us what we need to be responsible for and explicitly saying "you are adults now", was patronising and undermined us as adults. I feel like in order to treat us like adults, we don't need to be reminded or told off for our attendance. Instead by not saying anything and letting full responsibility fall on our shoulders means we'll either reap the benefits of the lectures or suffer the consequences of missing them.
Overall, I believe that respecting those younger than you is just as important as respecting your elders. From my own teaching experience, I've found when I speak to students and show them that I respect their thoughts, feelings, and them as people, we've managed to work together to find solutions to any problem they might be having. Where I understand the need to sometimes be a disciplinarian, to me, someone that leads by example, is far more effective than one that leads by punishment. Respecting students can help create a much more open, curious, and friendly learning environment; and at the end of the day, that's all a student wants.