I’m a firm believer you get what you give in life.

For example, to get respect, you have to give it. The respect-is-earned believers will disagree with me, but go with me here.

OK, I will say there are people who deserve a level of respect. Of course, we should respect our elders, superiors, people in high positions, such as the president or the mayor, plus those serving or retired from the military and first responders.

But what about when those people disrespect us? 

If one of those people shows a person who is being respectful an ounce of disrespect, that title or level of “earned” respect diminishes. If they do it again, again and again, well, respect is just gone out the window.

All people should have mutual respect for each other — high-esteemed titleholders or nobodies; white, black, brown, purple or blue people; a 2-year-old or the oldest living person on Earth; and everyone in between. We’re all living, breathing humans who make mistakes and respect is simply a human right each individual should be able to hold — if he or she respects others who, lest we forget, have that same right.

A bill worked itself through a state legislative committee hearing Tuesday that would mandate teachers have respect.

It’s disheartening to realize something as simple as respect should be a law. But it’s a dangerous thing to gamble and I can’t get on board with this law for a few reasons.

First let me say, there are absolutely outstanding teachers in this city, county, state, country and across the world. And those people deserve every bit of respect then some — then some more. 

Teaching is not a profession for everyone. I once thought I wanted to be a teacher. I worked at an afterschool care program, fell in love with every single child — even the 5-year-old who didn’t make it to the bathroom on time, and boy was it messy, and the sweet girl who asked me “What’s wrong with your face, Miss ’Antana?” when it was covered in acne. I declared education as my major, had a T-shirt that said, “Keep calm and be a pre-school teacher” — basically the whole nine; I was set. 

It wasn’t until I was sitting in my first education class at college I realized it wasn’t for me because it dawned on me I didn’t truly feel called to do it. I wasn’t born to be a teacher like every single other person sitting in that classroom with me.

Those people deserve to be respected — if they give it.

But just like any field, there are teachers who don’t belong in a classroom, aren’t good at their jobs and don’t respect their students, students’ parents or colleagues. If you’re not respecting other people — especially little people — I’m not sure you deserve my respect or anyone else’s.

There are also times where a teacher has given respect time and time again and been given none in return then becomes disrespectful to others. That doesn’t necessarily mean that teacher no longer deserves respect; it just means she’s tired or he’s burnt out. I get that.

A law isn’t the way to fix this issue. 

The bad seeds will legally have to stay in school systems and hurt our young generations — all because of a law mandating respect. 

I’m behind respecting all worthy teachers, but I can’t get behind the loopholes it would create.

This “Teacher Bill of Rights” covers rights teachers should have without the legislature getting involved, including the right to use discipline; to remove persistently disruptive students from the classroom; to have their professional judgment respected; to teach in a safe, secure and orderly environment that is conducive to learning; to be treated with civility and respect; to communicate with parents and ask them to participate in an appropriate student disciplinary decisions; to be free from excessive and burdensome paperwork; to have a mentor assigned to them with they first start teaching; and to have time to collaborate with other teachers during the school day or week. 

Why can’t our schools and boards of education be in charge of that? How about we fire bad teachers and pay the good ones what they deserve?

How about showing respect to those who give it? If a teacher isn’t respecting her kids, get her out of the classroom. If a teacher is pouring his heart and soul into his students and getting no respect in the classroom, hallway, parent-teacher conferences or board meetings, can’t we stop that ourselves?

It starts with us— not the statehouse — and we can do better. 

Not everything needs to become a law. There are some things the state just shouldn’t have control of. It’s trouble waiting to happen. Show respect to people who deserve it, end of story. 

 

Santana Wood is managing editor of Tallapoosa Publishers’ newspapers. She can be reached at santana.wood@alexcityoutlook.com

Santana Wood is the managing editor of The Outlook.