All In: Respect Helps Equity Thrive
Recently, I had a conversation with Merle Cuttitta, president of SEIU Local 500, the association that represents MCPS paraeducators, and transportation, food service, building service, maintenance, media and technology, and office and administrative staff. We try to meet monthly to consider how we can work together to support student learning and our employees. On this particular day, we talked about all of the good things that happen in our community and school system, and then we offered areas to work on together.
One area we discussed was respect.
Respect is an interesting concept. Several years ago, it was common to hear the statement, “You have to give respect to get respect.” I always wondered, though, if this provided an excuse or a responsibility. Who goes first? And, if I act in a respectful way toward someone, and I perceive that the person does not return that respect, does that give me permission to start behaving disrespectfully?
In the professional relationships we have with students, families and fellow employees, it is imperative that we always act in a respectful manner. No exceptions, no excuses. Everyone matters.
In fact, I believe respect is the first and most foundational of our five core values—(learning, relationships, respect, excellence and equity). It seems to me that none of the other core values are possible without respect. It provides the foundation upon which we can build an excellent learning environment, ensure equity, and create and sustain professional relationships with those we serve and with whom we work.
When each of these core values is present and alive in classrooms, schools, cafeterias, offices, and on athletic fields and school buses—in other words, whenever and wherever we work with others—learning for all can happen. Equity will thrive.
In MCPS, we talk a lot about respect and equity, but to make the concepts meaningful, each of us must live them every day through our behaviors and actions toward students, families and colleagues. We must ask ourselves, over and over again, “Is it respectful or equitable to deny students access and opportunity? Are we showing respect when we are indifferent to the support students need to learn or when we treat fellow employees in a dismissive or harsh manner?”
Is the idea of, “You have to give respect to get respect,” an excuse or a responsibility? For me, giving respect is a responsibility that must be taken on each day, especially when I am facing someone behaving in a way that I perceive to be disrespectful. Together, we must support each other as we continue to build a culture based on this core value. If we do this, we can truly provide our students with an excellent education.
P.S. This video provides an elegant idea on how to show respect and build relationships through a shared experience.