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I am an Oklahoman, born and bred. And although Oklahoma might not have a beach, DisneyWorld or one of the nation’s historic landmarks, it has amazing people who time and time again have come together to help one another when the rubber meets the road.
Having said that, many of us ‘Okies’ were heartbroken when one of our own, at the great University of Oklahoma, took it upon himself to degrade African Americans while headed to a party with his fraternity brothers. He didn’t realize he was being videoed. Fueled by alcohol or not, it was hurtful to many and is still causing discontent on the University grounds

Let me share a few things about this University. My oldest son is in the College of Engineering at the University of Oklahoma. It is an amazing University with an amazing president. It has a rich history, a tight community and students who truly feel they are part of something greater when they step onto the grounds. The professors (for the most part) are personable, caring about their students and willing to develop relationships and build rapport. It is truly a place where education is appreciated, respected and taken seriously, by professors and students.
When the video of the young man began circulation, the students involved were dismissed from the University, the fraternity was shut down and President Boren did what most Oklahomans feel was a great job of damage control, made sure that students felt safe on school grounds and reinforced the understanding that disrespectful behavior towards any group of students would not be tolerated.
I understand that some students will do stupid things. I have stories from my elementary classroom that can make my jaw drop. Most high school teachers will vouch for that statement on a daily basis; I for one hear a story every day from my husband about something that one of his high school students has done in his class, chalked up to a momentary lapse of judgment, that leaves him shaking his head and wondering what in the world the student was thinking.
What I don’t understand is the tolerance and desensitization that comes with that territory. I’ve been a teacher for two decades. I’ve seen classrooms where respect is not a priority. There should never be a reason that teachers anywhere tolerate disrespect shown to students by other students. There should also be no tolerance of students disrespecting teachers, teachers disrespecting other teachers or teachers disrespecting students. Ever.

Unfortunately this is not always the case. When teachers create an environment that tolerates disrespect (to persons or property), no matter how small, it shows students, no matter their age, that disrespect is acceptable. When this cycle is established the students carry it into adulthood and either become disrespectful adults or adults who tolerate disrespect from others.
Respect is the root of all behavior-good or bad.

We need to remember the power that we hold in our classrooms. We need to remember that how we choose to treat our students sets the precedence for not just the year that we have them, but for the years to come. We need to remember that we have a huge impact on our students’ daily lives and that the only stability they may be getting is that which is in our classrooms.

Paula has a Masters degree in education with an emphasis on child development and child behavior....

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