Example #35 Posture and Respect

What if a teacher’s posture in the classroom helped build respect?

Helen is a teacher of children aged 5-7. When you go into her classroom, you will usually have to look hard to find her!

"I decided to make a deliberate effort to change my body language in the classroom while still maintaining authority. Fortunately my knees and back enable me to do this! I sit in the circle with the class. If they are at their desks I will often kneel beside a student to give assistance or feedback. If the children are seated on the floor at the front of the class in a listening activity, I sit on a child’s chair in front of them.

"In one music lesson, I was teaching the concept of 'beat' and the piece of music was quite regal and processional. The activity involved a child sitting in the centre of the circle, wearing a crown and holding a 'sceptre' (a broomstick covered in silver paper). I asked the child to pound the sceptre on the floor in time with the beat. The rest of the class hit their hands on the floor in time to the beat. I took the first turn, wearing the crown and sitting in the centre of the circle. The head chose that particular moment to enter the classroom with a prospective school family who were on a school tour. I paused to explain to the visitors what the activity was about. The head expressed his interest and delight, so I asked him to join in. The children were delighted at seeing the head sitting in a circle amongst them, wearing a crown and pounding a sceptre on the floor in time with the beat!"

What’s going on here?

Helen saw taking part and her body posture – and that of the head teacher – as a way of showing respect and modelling attentiveness to her students in the day to day operations of her classroom.

Helen engaged students by helping them experience the teacher as supportive and encouraging.

She reshaped her practice by modelling respect and being intentional about body language and use of classroom space to change interactions (taking part, being on a child’s level).

How do I do this myself?

What does this have to do with faith, hope and love?

Respect is essential for relationships to develop. It is when both parties are prepared to forsake their own needs and look to the needs of the other. Helen modelled this and encouraged respect by her own body language. This is not a denial of appropriate authority, but the recognition that Jesus redefined authority in terms of service. This typifies Christian love, ultimately modelled by Jesus. The Bible calls this: 'Loving your neighbour as yourself.' Helen gave the respect she wanted to receive. Some of our students have experienced failed relationships and building good relationships at school can be part of the renewal process, bringing hope.

What difference does it make?

The difference in this example is that Helen made changes that enabled eye contact and a different interaction to take place. When disciplining a young child, she either crouches down or they will both sit on a child’s chair, so they can be at eye level. Sometimes, Helen will pull up two 'adult' chairs for them both to sit on. If Helen is at her desk and a child comes to her desk to talk or to have work checked, she deliberately swivels her chair around so that her body is facing the child, facilitating eye-to-eye contact. All of this communicates respect and builds good relationships.

Where could we go from here?

Look for opportunities for relationship-building in your classroom. Are there some other simple adjustments you could make to your physical presence so that your students will feel valued and see an example they can emulate? How could they think about their body posture in order to show respect for staff?

Digging deeper

Respect in biblical Hebrew is ‘to bow down’. Respect and honour were shown by a physical position. We do not have the elaborate courtesies of other cultures but we can still explore with students how we show respect by our body language. The Bible locates human worth in being God-made and mattering to God. Because of this, people do not have to wait to earn our respect; respect is the basic response as all deserve to be treated with dignity as God’s children (1 Peter 2:13-17). Jesus said that what we do to others he treats as done to himself (Matthew 25:40).

Servants were the hired hands and slaves of Jesus’ time. Jesus took this word and gave it a new and radical meaning. He took a word that described a person under the authority of others and redefined it in terms of leadership and greatness. Christians describe Jesus as the ‘servant King’. He washed his disciples' feet and expected his followers to be willing to act similarly (John 13:14-15). Jesus made it clear that in the kingdom of God, those who are greatest are those who serve God and others. Leadership can be expressed in terms of servanthood without loss of authority.

Explore similar examples:

What if meetings with parents fostered hope?
What if circle time were about peace?
What if teaching were fuelled by gratitude?

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1Stop being hateful! Stop trying to fool people, and start being sincere. Don't be jealous or say cruel things about others. 2Be like newborn babies who are thirsty for the pure spiritual milk that will help you grow and be saved. 3You have already found out how good the Lord really is. 4Come to Jesus Christ. He is the living stone that people have rejected, but which God has chosen and highly honoured. 5And now you are living stones that are being used to build a spiritual house. You are also a group of holy priests, and with the help of Jesus Christ you will offer sacrifices that please God. 6It is just as God says in the Scriptures, Look! I am placing in Zion a choice and precious cornerstone. No one who has faith in that one will be disappointed. 7You are followers of the Lord, and that stone is precious to you. But it isn't precious to those who refuse to follow him. They are the builders who tossed aside the stone that turned out to be the most important one of all. 8They disobeyed the message and stumbled and fell over that stone, because they were doomed. 9But you are God's chosen and special people. You are a group of royal priests and a holy nation. God has brought you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Now you must tell all the wonderful things that he has done. The Scriptures say, 10Once you were nobody. Now you are God's people. At one time no one had pity on you. Now God has treated you with kindness. Live as God's servants should 11Dear friends, you are foreigners and strangers on this earth. So I beg you not to surrender to those desires that fight against you. 12Always let others see you behaving properly, even though they may still accuse you of doing wrong. Then on the day of judgment, they will honour God by telling the good things they saw you do. 13The Lord wants you to obey all human authorities, especially the Emperor, who rules over everyone. 14You must also obey governors, because they are sent by the Emperor to punish criminals and to praise good citizens. 15God wants you to silence stupid and ignorant people by doing right. 16You are free, but still you are God's servants, and you must not use your freedom as an excuse for doing wrong. 17Respect everyone and show special love for God's people. Honour God and respect the Emperor. 18Servants, you must obey your masters and always show respect to them. Do this, not only to those who are kind and thoughtful, but also to those who are cruel. 19God will bless you, even if others treat you unfairly for being loyal to him. 20You don't gain anything by being punished for some wrong you have done. But God will bless you, if you have to suffer for doing something good. 21After all, God chose you to suffer as you follow in the footsteps of Christ, who set an example by suffering for you. 22Christ did not sin or ever tell a lie. 23Although he was abused, he never tried to get even. And when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he had faith in God, who judges fairly. 24Christ carried the burden of our sins. He was nailed to the cross, so that we would stop sinning and start living right. By his cuts and bruises you are healed. 25You had wandered away like sheep. Now you have returned to the one who is your shepherd and protector. Wives and husbands
1The kingdom of heaven is like what happened one night when ten girls took their oil lamps and went to a wedding to meet the groom. 2Five of the girls were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps, but no extra oil. 4The ones who were wise took along extra oil for their lamps. 5The groom was late arriving, and the girls became drowsy and fell asleep. 6Then in the middle of the night someone shouted, Here's the groom! Come to meet him! 7When the girls got up and started getting their lamps ready, 8the foolish ones said to the others, Let us have some of your oil! Our lamps are going out. 9The girls who were wise answered, There's not enough oil for all of us! Go and buy some for yourselves. 10While the foolish girls were on their way to get some oil, the groom arrived. The girls who were ready went into the wedding, and the doors were closed. 11Later the other girls returned and shouted, Sir, sir! Open the door for us! 12But the groom replied, I don't even know you! 13So, my disciples, always be ready! You don't know the day or the time when all this will happen. A story about three servants (Luke 19.11-27) Jesus continued: 14The kingdom is also like what happened when a man went away and put his three servants in charge of all he owned. 15The man knew what each servant could do. So he handed five thousand coins to the first servant, two thousand to the second, and one thousand to the third. Then he left the country. 16As soon as the man had gone, the servant with the five thousand coins used them to earn five thousand more. 17The servant who had two thousand coins did the same with his money and earned two thousand more. 18But the servant with one thousand coins dug a hole and hid his master's money in the ground. 19Some time later the master of those servants returned. He called them in and asked what they had done with his money. 20The servant who had been given five thousand coins brought them in with the five thousand that he had earned. He said, Sir, you gave me five thousand coins, and I have earned five thousand more. 21Wonderful! his master replied. You are a good and faithful servant. I left you in charge of only a little, but now I will put you in charge of much more. Come and share in my happiness! 22Next, the servant who had been given two thousand coins came in and said, Sir, you gave me two thousand coins, and I have earned two thousand more. 23Wonderful! his master replied. You are a good and faithful servant. I left you in charge of only a little, but now I will put you in charge of much more. Come and share in my happiness! 24The servant who had been given one thousand coins then came in and said, Sir, I know that you are hard to get along with. You harvest what you don't plant and gather crops where you haven't scattered seed. 25I was frightened and went out and hid your money in the ground. Here is every single coin! 26The master of the servant told him, You are lazy and good-for-nothing! You know that I harvest what I don't plant and gather crops where I haven't scattered seed. 27You could have at least put my money in the bank, so that I could have earned interest on it. 28Then the master said, Now your money will be taken away and given to the servant with ten thousand coins! 29Everyone who has something will be given more, and they will have more than enough. But everything will be taken from those who don't have anything. 30You are a worthless servant, and you will be thrown out into the dark where people will cry and grit their teeth in pain. The final judgment Jesus continued: 31When the Son of Man comes in his glory with all his angels, he will sit on his royal throne. 32The people of all nations will be brought before him, and he will separate them, as shepherds separate their sheep from their goats. 33He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34Then the king will say to those on his right, My father has blessed you! Come and receive the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world was created. 35When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, 36and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me. 37Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, When did we give you something to eat or drink? 38When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear 39or visit you while you were sick or in jail? 40The king will answer, Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me. 41Then the king will say to those on his left, Get away from me! You are under God's curse. Go into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels! 42I was hungry, but you did not give me anything to eat, and I was thirsty, but you did not give me anything to drink. 43I was a stranger, but you did not welcome me, and I was naked, but you did not give me any clothes to wear. I was sick and in jail, but you did not take care of me. 44Then the people will ask, Lord, when did we fail to help you when you were hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in jail? 45The king will say to them, Whenever you failed to help any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do it for me. 46Then Jesus said, Those people will be punished for ever. But the ones who pleased God will have eternal life. The plot to kill Jesus (Mark 14.1,2; Luke 22.1,2; John 11.45-53)
1It was before Passover, and Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and to return to the Father. He had always loved his followers in this world, and he loved them to the very end. 2Even before the evening meal started, the devil had made Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, decide to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that he had come from God and would go back to God. He also knew that the Father had given him complete power. 4So during the meal Jesus got up, removed his outer garment, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5He put some water into a large bowl. Then he began washing his disciples' feet and drying them with the towel he was wearing. 6But when he came to Simon Peter, that disciple asked, Lord, are you going to wash my feet? 7Jesus answered, You don't really know what I am doing, but later you will understand. 8You will never wash my feet! Peter replied. If I don't wash you, Jesus told him, you don't really belong to me. 9Peter said, Lord, don't wash just my feet. Wash my hands and my head. 10Jesus answered, People who have bathed and are clean all over need to wash just their feet. And you, my disciples, are clean, except for one of you. 11Jesus knew who would betray him. That is why he said, except for one of you. 12After Jesus had washed his disciples' feet and had put his outer garment back on, he sat down again. Then he said: Do you understand what I have done? 13You call me your teacher and Lord, and you should, because that is who I am. 14And if your Lord and teacher has washed your feet, you should do the same for each other. 15I have set the example, and you should do for each other exactly what I have done for you. 16I tell you for certain that servants are not greater than their master, and messengers are not greater than the one who sent them. 17You know these things, and God will bless you, if you do them. 18I am not talking about all of you. I know the ones I have chosen. But what the Scriptures say must come true. And they say, The man who ate with me has turned against me! 19I am telling you this before it all happens. Then when it does happen, you will believe who I am. 20I tell you for certain that anyone who welcomes my messengers also welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Jesus tells what will happen to him (Matthew 26.20-25; Mark 14.17-21; Luke 22.21-23) 21After Jesus had said these things, he was deeply troubled and told his disciples, I tell you for certain that one of you will betray me. 22They were confused about what he meant. And they just stared at each other. 23Jesus' favourite disciple was sitting next to him at the meal, 24and Simon motioned for that disciple to find out which one Jesus meant. 25So the disciple leaned towards Jesus and asked, Lord, which one of us are you talking about? 26Jesus answered, I will dip this piece of bread in the sauce and give it to the one I was talking about. Then Jesus dipped the bread and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27At once Satan took control of Judas. Jesus said, Judas, go quickly and do what you have to do. 28No one at the meal understood what Jesus meant. 29But because Judas was in charge of the money, some of them thought that Jesus had told him to buy something they needed for the festival. Others thought that Jesus had told him to give some money to the poor. 30Judas took the piece of bread and went out. It was already night. The new command 31After Judas had gone, Jesus said: Now the Son of Man will be given glory, and he will bring glory to God. 32Then, after God is given glory because of him, God will bring glory to him, and God will do it very soon. 33My children, I will be with you for a little while longer. Then you will look for me, but you won't find me. I tell you just as I told the people, You cannot go where I am going. 34But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. 35If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples. Peter's promise (Matthew 26.31-35; Mark 14.27-31; Luke 22.31-34) 36Simon Peter asked, Lord, where are you going? Jesus answered, You can't go with me now, but later on you will. 37Peter asked, Lord, why can't I go with you now? I would die for you! 38Would you really die for me? Jesus asked. I tell you for certain that before a cock crows, you will say three times that you don't even know me. Jesus is the way to the Father