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Alternative Title

Teachers and an ethic to care

Publication Date


Document Type

Honors Project


Education and Child Study


Respect, Disrespect, Student-teacher relationships, Adolescents, Emerging adults, Urban high schools, Teacher-student relationships, High school students-Conduct of life, High school students-Attitudes


Positive student-teacher relationships are imperative for academic achievement and student well-being. These relationships rely on understanding unilateral and reciprocal beliefs about respect and teachers’ ethic to care about their students. Respect and disrespect are concepts used to examine positive and negative aspects of student-teacher relationships. Respectful student-teacher relationships may promote academic achievement and well-being while disrespectful student-teacher relationships may hinder it. For this study, 12 urban youth participated in interviews about their experiences of respect and disrespect from teachers at school. Interviews were thematically coded; six themes and eighteen subcategories were identified for respect, and six themes and fifteen subcategories were identified for disrespect. The themes for respect included Social Conventional and Traditional Respect, Age-Related Respect, Fostering Positive Relationships, Caring about Youth as People, Building Community, and Authorities Rights and Roles, while the themes for disrespect included Lack of Care, Awareness of Who We Are, the Use and Abuse of Power, Youth as Active Participant in the Disrespect Cycle, Getting What you Deserve (Or Not), and Emotional Absence. Teachers most often demonstrated respect by helping students do well in school and by engaging students in classroom discussions. Teachers were most often seen as disrespectful when they abused their powers as authority figures, and when they did not know individual students and their culture. These preliminary findings suggest that to promote respect in the classroom, teachers should actively foster a student-teacher relationship in the classroom and become more aware of the students they teach.




116 pages. Honors project, Smith College, 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 70-77)