Addressing the Class

06 Jan

I would like to share a practice I use in the classroom, and why I think it can make a difference for you.

When I address the students in my classroom, or whatever classroom I happen to be in, I call them “Ladies and Gentlemen”.  I don’t use some of the other standard terms: boys & girls, students, class or HEY! (OK, I guilty of that last one on occasion.)  I won’t fault you if you do, it is just my thing.  I would certainly encourage you to use it, because I think it makes a difference in the behavior of the students.  I think it sets three things: a respectful tone, higher expectations and goals.

The most important of these aspects for me is the respectful tone.  It models how to be respectful to one another and acceptable ways to address one another.  The importance of respect speaks for itself when it comes to the classroom and everyday life.  It is certainly part of your character education program.  This is a simple and effective way to model the respect you are trying to teach.

Another aspect of this address is that it sets higher expectations for behavior.  Now, you will have to spell out this part.  “I call you ladies & gentlemen because that is the way I expect you to act at all times.”  You could also keep a list of identified behaviors of ladies and gentlemen as they come up throughout the year.  “Gentlemen don’t push”, “Ladies use inside voices”, or “Ladies & Gentlemen walk quietly in the hall” would be some examples.  You could then relate those back to the more general classroom rules.  Calling them what they already know they are only supports their status quo.  By calling them by these loftier titles, it reminds them you have a higher expectation of them and it will hopefully be taken to heart by them.

By raising those expectations, you set behavior goals for them.  When they take this to heart they say, “I WANT to behave like a lady/gentleman.”  By instilling this desire achieve that level of behavior, hopefully it will decrease off-task behavior.  It can be a measuring stick by which they can measure themselves and one another.  “Would a lady run in the hall?  How would a gentleman handle getting in line?”  Hopefully they will take these goals and behaviors beyond the classroom to become a lifelong way of living.

Maybe, by instilling these behaviors and goals, we can restore some much needed civility and old school respect to our society.  That would be a welcomed achievement if you asked me.  I hope you can take something useful away from this post to use in your routines.


Posted by on January 6, 2012 in Classroom Practices, Education, Management


Tags: , , ,

5 responses to “Addressing the Class

  1. Josh Averette

    January 6, 2012 at 11:25 PM

    I have to say, I agree with your post. Our words do mean something and setting expectations goes a long way. These same principles don’t apply just to the classroom but also to every day life. I completely concur that if more educators set, expected and maintained a level of respect that things would be drastically changed. Most kids, and people in general, will perform only near the limits others expect of them and far far too often that bar is set too low. — I may even steal your lines of “a lady uses her inside voice” with my daughter

  2. Seth Baxter

    January 6, 2012 at 11:44 PM

    Please do use that at home. This works better when parents get on board and support those expectations at home. Of course, if they did that in the first place we would have no need for this discussion.

  3. Joan Young (@flourishingkids)

    January 8, 2012 at 6:42 PM

    I do agree that the way we address our classes impacts the way they exhibit the behavioral expectations that we set for them. I also agree that the tone and language in which we address students impacts the respect they show for us and for each other.

    That being said, though part of me says, “Yes, I love that idea!” ( and actually have used the terms myself among other ways I address my students in sometimes playful ways) I don’t know that using one particular set of terms, such as ladies and gentleman is necessarily the only way to inspire students to show a higher level of respect. Something about the gender issues of those terms makes me think of the danger in perpetuating stereotypes. To combat this, I would use “Ladies and gentleman do or don’t do this”…so as not to perpetuate that boys are the ones running in the halls or girls are the ones talking too much in class. I am not saying that you are using the terms in such a way that you are perpetuating stereotypes; I just see a potential danger in that boys are often the ones being called out for their behaviors that doesn’t mesh with school.

    Hope this ramble makes sense to you. I applaud you for writing about respect as it is such an important part of a classroom where everyone can learn. I believe that the ultimate way to foster respect in a classroom is to know your students well and help them feel empowered and inspired to use their unique strengths. Students want to feel a sense of belonging, efficacy and care when they go to school. Keep up the great work!

  4. Seth Baxter

    January 8, 2012 at 9:07 PM

    Mrs. Young,

    I understand what you are saying. I was not trying to say this is the only way, just a good one. As for those examples of running in the hall or talking, those would be if I was dealing with an individual. I would say “gentlemen” when dealing with a boy and “ladies” when dealing with a girl.

    Thank you so much for your feedback and time.

    • Joan Young (@flourishingkids)

      January 10, 2012 at 10:31 PM

      Thanks for the clarification, Seth! I do understand and I hope to see others chiming in here as well!


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