ARLEE — Sixth-grade students sat quietly and waited for their school counselor, Kelsey Tritz, to begin a lesson on respect at Arlee Junior High School recently.
“I want to point that out right there, when you guys all got quiet when I said ‘I’ll start when you’re ready,” Tritz said to the class. “Who are you showing respect to when you do that?”
“You,” the class responded.
“And who else?” Tritz said. “When we quiet down, we’re showing respect to our classmates so that they can learn, too, because when we’re disrupting the environment, then they’re not learning and we’re getting in the way of their education.”
As Arlee School District’s K-6 counselor, Tritz visits classrooms each week to teach lessons that help students develop emotionally. Tritz tailors lessons to each grade level. Recently, she taught third- and fourth-graders a lesson on using nonverbal communication to solve conflicts, and discussed how students can choose to ignore a situation, walk away or wait and cool off.
Tritz began the lesson on respect with a video featuring Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant discussing how Bryant assisted O’Neal during a game.
“That’s showing respect because they’re working together as a team,” Tritz said. “How else did they show respect?”
“They celebrated together,” sixth-grader Ethane Vanderburg said. “After they won the championship, he came back and jumped in his arms.”
Students are often told to show respect, but they’re not always told what that looks like. Tritz’s goal is to create lessons that give students real-life examples of how they can show respect in situations they’re likely to encounter.
To illustrate respect to students, Tritz printed out slips of paper with different hypothetical scenarios that she placed around the room. For each scenario, students were instructed to read through the situation in small groups and decide if the person was showing respect.
Vanderburg read the scenario at the first station. “During show and tell, two boys start laughing when their classmate is sharing what her favorite movie is,” he said. “They laugh and say: ‘That is a boring movie.’ Are these students being respectful to their classmate?”
“I don’t think they’re showing respect,” sixth-grader Brooke Tanner said. “To them, that could be a boring movie. But to her, that could be the best movie.”
Tanner read the next prompt. “Eric’s baseball team did not win the big game,” she said. “Eric was very mad. When it was time for both teams to shake hands, Eric sat on the bench and refused to shake hands with the other team. Is Eric being respectful? What should Eric do to show respect?”
“They should show good sportsmanship,” sixth-grader Chayton Bartell said.
“He could’ve been like, ‘It’s just a game,’” Vanderburg said.
After the students made it through all the stations, they returned to their desks to have a class discussion about the scenarios.
Tritz revisited the scenario where two boys laughed at a girl when she shared her favorite movie. She asked students how the boys could show the girl respect.
“Even if they didn’t like it, they should pretend that they did,” sixth-grader Erin Haynes said.
“Do they have to pretend?” Tritz asked the class. “Do we have to have the same opinion as everybody else?”
The class was quiet, with a couple students responding “no.”
“We don’t have to like the same things as everyone else,” Tritz said. “It’s how we choose to talk about it or let the other person know that we have a different opinion.”
Tritz explained to students that no one’s opinion is wrong. She also explained that it’s OK to feel mad or upset, going back to the situation with a hypothetical student named Eric who lost a baseball game.
“It’s not a bad thing to be mad or upset about something, but it’s how we choose to handle that anger,” Tritz said.
Tritz asked students for suggestions of other ways they could handle their anger. Students suggested taking deep breaths, using a punching bag or walking away.
Tritz ended the lesson with another video with a clip from "Remember the Titans" where the team approached Gettysburg Battlefield and Coach Boone gave a speech.
“If we don't come together right now on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed just like they were,” Coach Boone said in the film. “I don't care if you like each other or not, but you will respect each other.”