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.