The objective subjectivity of RESPECT


August 19, 2010 by Willy Cardoso

At the last BrazTESOL convention, Herbert Puchta made reference to Carl Rogers’ core conditions that facilitate learning to illustrate part of his great plenary on Leadership. My high opinion of both Rogers and Puchta made be swiftly turn my camcorder on as I knew that was something I would like to revisit and possibly write about.

In this specific segment shown below, Puchta talks about how teachers’ congruence can turn into learners’ respect for the teacher. The main point is that in the past teachers were granted respect simply because of their role, and that now they have to work harder to get it (as teachers no longer carry weapons – my words – or so I thought) and that by being genuine and authentic teachers now gain this respect because they really deserve it. I couldn’t agree more with the importance of realness in teaching. However, I consider that in the past it was not respect what students had, according to the definitions I’ll use below, it was fear.

Thanks Herbert Puchta for allowing me to shoot and upload this video!

On the other side of the coin, we have the teacher’s respect for the learner, and that is where I want to make things more complicated.

Let’s take a look at two definitions of the verb to respect and how they can mold our perception of its application in teaching and learning.

  1. to show regard or consideration for; to hold in esteem. (#1)
  2. to refrain from intruding upon or interfering with, like in to respect a person’s privacy. (#2)

If a person doesn’t want to learn something, we as teachers have to do our best to understand why, to show how important it is, to give support, encouragement and motivation; by doing that we show that we care. That’s roughly speaking related to respect #1.

Paradoxically, it’s also to bear in mind that we should respect the fact that the person doesn’t want to learn what we want to teach. This kind of respect is very difficult, we never want to admit that what we teach might be irrelevant to our students, and that their motive not to enjoy it may be a simple ‘because it’s boring’. We think it is important, and many times it is indeed, but by pushing it and keeping total control of discipline and of ‘what should be learnt’ aren’t we intruding upon another person’s development and taking away their autonomy and responsibility for their own learning? Isn’t it  a lack of respect #2?

- This is boring!

Could we ever allow the individual to take full control and responsibility over their learning? Choosing when, how, what, where, with whom and the neglected IF – they’re going to learn.

Over to you.


8 thoughts on “The objective subjectivity of RESPECT

  1. Katia M.Handa Shimada says:

    But \not only teachers ..that it is supposed to be respect.. but parents too. They used to pusnish children , I can tell you that as being mother now , I think the way my father used to do make us feel afraid. It is a consequence, we used to imagine teachers as punishing us like old parents.

  2. David says:


    Very important thoughts that spark a lot of thought in me.

    Any time someone mentions Carl Rogers in TESOL I get goosebumps – ELT needs to be “wider” in its reading and influence. Have you read much of Nel Nodding’s work/research about “caring”?

    I am totally in agreement that students should “want” to learn. Schools traditionally don’t respect that (or at least public schools) and force students.

    Two radically approaches I support and which will come sooner or later are..

    1) Sudbury school model. Schools where students come and go as they want. They learn what they want / when and from whom. I hope others look more into this approach.

    2) The payment model. Yes, students get paid to attend school! Why not? that’s how it works for us grown ups, why not students, even young students? It works, it should be done….

    Thanks for the great post.


    • Thank you so much for your comments David!
      Do I smell a ‘Deschooling Society’ on you bookshelf?

      1) I hadn’t heard of Sudbury schools, just googled it and at a first glance found it very interesting, will dig more into it. If it is what it claims, I feel I’ll need to visit one of them very soon. Have you been at one? Do you have any links to send me about it?

      reference for readers:

      2) Quite radical. Any references?

      Re: Rogers and Noddings
      I can understand your goosebumps, but I believe mentioning Rogers is a stepping stone in TESOL, especially in this case, I mean, the conference Puchta and I spoke at was in Brazil, and we both mentioned Rogers, and there was another talk related to humanism, and that was it. The rest was interesting but too much geared towards practical activities or how to use technology in education. So there wasn’t too much room for the philoposhy of education, or the psychology of education, things that in general Brazilian teachers don’t know much about. Rogers is accessible reading and quite insightful, you can’t deny that, or can you?
      Yes, I’ve read Noddings, actually still getting familiar with her stuff, which btw I got from someone commenting on a Rogerian-like post I wrote : ) So, I’ll also take this chance to ask you to send in some links if you can.

      reference for readers:

      Thanks again!

      • Rick says:

        In regard to question #2, I guess we could mention what happens in Brazil with a governmental financial aid called ‘Bolsa Escola’. In a nutshell, families get paid as long as they keep their kids in school. Is this what you had in mind, David?
        If it is, as someone who sees it happening really close to me, I don’t think this is a model that works, especially when you think long-term…


  3. Great post, Willy!

    This sparked a lot of thought for me too, and I agree with you absolutely that respect for teachers needs to be earnt and that it shouldn’t be automatic.

    Re: David’s comments:

    point #1:

    I hadn’t heard of Sudbury before, so thanks for the link, David.

    Summerhill (in the UK) is another good example of an alternative ‘free’ school, which is worth checking out if you aren’t familiar with it:

    There’s an interesting article here about Summerhill in the Guardian, as well:

    point #2:

    We have the payment model (EMA) already here in the UK for students over the age of 16.

    It has had mixed results, and provoked predictable outrage from the likes of those who believe that “schooling should be compulsery” (sic) 😉

    I’ve taught on some courses where students have been paid or given other incentives to continue their studies, and like Rick, I’m not convinced it works… although I think it could work, *if* learners were given more
    of a say in the process, and were offered a more flexible range of options to choose from.


    • Thanks for the rich stuff you linked here Sue!

      Nice article about Summerhill. I wonder how it’s seen by outsiders, and if after all this time how many schools followed on their footsteps.

      It’s a bit funny to say ‘free schools’, especially with this connotation of minorities, isn’t it? What would be the opposite?
      After all, isn’t being schooled meant to free ourselves from ignorance, dominance, and so on.

      re: point #2, see response below.

  4. I was taking a better look at what we have here in Brazil, which you mentioned Henrick, and found out that it has very little to do with Education per se.

    Bolsa Escola, part of the Bolsa Familia program, is an initiative of the Ministry of Social Development and is aimed at reducing the number of families in the zone of extreme poverty, they measure its success by rates in social development and not by the ones in educational development. I didn’t find anything about it on MEC’s website. Also, it benefits only those, as I said, in extreme poverty, so it’s not really like ‘paid-to-study’, it’s more like paid to avoid these families’ starvation, which may lead to child labor and juvenile delinquency.

  5. Rick says:

    Hi Willy,

    Thank you for the information you’ve provided. I’m no expert on the subject, but I still would like to contribute my two cents.

    What I usually see happening (in Brasília) when I talk to people who know those who receive money on account of “Bolsa-Escola” is that, yes, it’s a programme aimed at those who are in the zone of extreme poverty. However, it is paid only if those families keep their children in school. It is a social, not an educational programme, but, as many of the state-subsidised programmes in Brazil, it’s not properly controlled and audited, which means there are at least some families who get the money without actually living in extreme poverty.

    What we witness in Brasília these days is a whole bunch of people choosing not to work because of all of the financial aid the government provides those who don’t work or who aren’t officially registered. I’ve had talks with people who live in the poorer areas of town, and I was gobsmacked to see they complain a lot about such financial aids because they know lots of people who actually quit their jobs just stay at home and get money from the government. The consequence of which is that these people tend to turn to alcohol and other things much more frequently.

    Even though I particularly don’t like it, I acknowledge the idea behind the programme may even be nice. However, the more we read about governmental expenditures, the more we know how poorly our money is spent – not to say that’s most of it is simply wasted.



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