Respect unlimited

Respect unlimited

Respect unlimited

One of her teachers had told the class to prepare for a test but there was no test. What made her unhappy is the fact that the teacher didn’t say “I’m sorry! I got you all excited about taking a test, but could not give you one”. It definitely, was an example of  cultural difference. It took her a while to understand that ours is an authoritative school culture; expecting teachers to give a reason is out of question.

We had just then moved to India from the United States. She was a little over 2 when we went to USA, which means that she has spent 70% of her life there.  Even though we visited home every summer; living here is a totally different ball game.

We moved to our hometown with the sole intention of giving her the happiness of growing up with her cousins nearby. She did love it in spite of a lot of adjustments; but this ‘respect’ business bothered her a lot.

Here respect is an attribute for older people but not for little children. I wouldn’t have understood her had I not seen the Americans’ perception of respect. According to the dictionary respect means ‘to consider worthy of high regard’.   It’s like a Christmas gift; it’s wonderful to give and even more wonderful to receive. While there’s a cultural gap between the eastern and western ways of expressing one’s respect no one can deny that we have plenty to learn from each other.

In USA it was quite an experience to see drivers follow the traffic rules even in the middle of the night when there is no soul around. ‘Is it their way of respecting the traffic rules?’ I wondered, even though someone cynically said that it’s because of high penalties.

It was yet an amazing experience to hear the teachers say “Thank you for allowing me to be your child’s teacher. You honour me by giving the responsibility of sharing your child’s future’. What a noble way of showing respect to the children you teach.

Teachers that I met with in her school were trained and equipped with wonderful ideas.  They seem to believe that taking charge of a class in the beginning of the year is better than getting control of it after it gets unruly. Respect is certainly a two-way street that must undergo construction before the traffic runs smoothly. If the ground work for respect is done carefully, 'to be held in high regard' will follow.

We all have a part in making this world wonderful. Treating others as you want to be treated is respecting others. As an educator, I have had an opportunity to interact with students of all ages from preschool to Ph.D. When I asked some of them to define respect, here are some of the answers I got. Most of these statements do give away their age group.

Keeping your hands and feet to yourself.
Not touching others' toys without permission.
Not hitting others.
Washing hands before eating.
Not making faces at others.
Not laughing at others.
Returning borrowed books on time.
Not talking bad of others.
Not telling harmful lies.
Caring for elderly at home.
Keeping your books/clothes organized.
Not disturbing others while studying.
Not interrupting others talk.
Keeping the TV/music volume low.
Talking pleasantly and softly.
Not calling names.
Not talking when the lecture is on.
Coming to school on time.
Obeying the class/school rules.
Not wasting water.
Not wasting food.
Recycling to save the environment.
Using polite language.
Believing that all religions are equal.
Not throwing the trash around.
Disposing trash in designated places.
Helping the sick and needy.
Spreading positive thoughts around.
Spreading smiles.
Not opening/reading other's mail.
Protecting the trees/plants.
Being kind.
Giving your best to your job.
Following the rules.
Treating others as you want them to treat you.

.....The list goes on.  I'm sure you think it's an optimal mixture of all these put together.  It's, indeed, a great experience to try and figure out what respect means.

To make it a little easier we can compartmentalize it as respect for self, respect for family, respect for teachers, respect for neighbours, respect for community, respect for environment and make a personal mission statement as to how we implement it. Respect and see how it helps you move up the self-respect scale.

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