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"You Can't Hate on Someone Who Helps:" How Teachers Earn Students' Respect

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

Respect is key to positive student-teacher relationships (Audley & Ginsberg, 2018). Students report that they will not respect teachers until teachers “earn their respect” (Jones & Deutsch, 2008). How can teachers’ earn students respect? Youth need to feel cared in order to thrive in school, both academically and personally (Wentzel, 1997; Woolley, Kol, Bowen, 2009). However, high school teachers often emphasize their classroom authority (Ford, 2014), and a multitude of studies demonstrate that White teachers view students of color as less capable than their white student counterparts (McGrady & Reynolds 2013). In response, students of color are less cooporative with untrustworthy teachers (Gregory & Weinstein, 2008). These “mismatches” potentially impacts a teacher’s ability to earn students’ respect.

This study uses a Critical Race Theory framework (Crenshaw, 1991) to examine adolescents’ perspective of (Q1) how White teachers earn students’ respect (Q2), whether earning respect differs by student ethnicity, and (Q3) the association between earning respect and microresistance.

Sixteen youth from grades 9-12 (Mage =17.2, SD = 1.23, 78% female; 18.75% White) were interviewed in a semi-structured format about a time that a teacher earned their respect. Following Saldana (2015), we created an inductive codebook analyzing youth perspectives on the respect earning process, including respect actions and microresistances, “incremental daily efforts to challenge white privilege” to help targeted people “cope with microaggressions” (Ganote, Cheung, Souza, & Irey, 2013). Two researchers independently coded 80% of the narratives after reaching twenty percent coding consensus. All disagreements were resolved through consensus.

(Q1)We identified six categories of teacher actions that earned students respect (see Table 1). The three most common action categories were: personally connecting with students, sticking up for their students, and affirming their identities. For example, a teacher stuck up for a student when she was teased about her dancing hobby by another student during class, “[the teacher intervened and said] ‘to be a dancer, you have to be an athlete’... And that really made me feel good”. This finding reflects previous research that demonstrates that caring teachers foster academic and personal success among their students (McLaughlin, 1991).

(Q2) Both students of color and White students cited that caring and helpful teachers earned their respect. However, White students also cited teacher supporting autonomy, while students of color highlighted the importance of the teacher supporting their social identities (including class, gender, and ethnicity).

(Q3) Six out of the eighteen interviews contained instances of microresistance (See Table 2). Surprisingly, they were only present in stories told by students of color. Most commonly reported were microaffirmations (four); less common were micro oppositions - statements that directly targeted a microaggression that was in progress. All teachers who engaged in microresistance were White teachers, suggesting that White teachers should affirm and protect student identities to build positive student-teacher relationships through respect.

These findings demonstrate that teachers earn students respect through interpersonal interactions, and for students of color, by not only acknowledging ethnicity in the classroom but also positively affirming and supporting their diverse identities.


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