Creating a Motivating Culture of Respect is as Easy as ABC

Many educators are looking for ways to support students and build relationships that foster high levels of student learning.  Some have even studied the concept of the ABC’s and how Autonomy, Belonging and Competence can support student motivation and achievement.  

Autonomy: People need to have control over their choices. They should feel they have the power to make decisions that matter to them and those impacted by them.  When individuals have the power to weigh options, consider the impact, and act accordingly they feel valued as professionals and humans. This is true for anyone; students, educators, and parents all want to feel valued.

Belonging: People need to feel part of a community and know their actions are essential to impacting the whole. 

Competence: One could define competency as possessing the required skills, qualifications and knowledge to be highly effective in their field.  The journey to develop these skills and knowledge are just as important as the knowledge and skills themselves.  This is at the heart of self-efficacy.  

But what about educators?  

We talk about the word RESPECT all of the time.  We sing songs about it (Thank you, Aretha Franklin), we write classroom rules about, and at times we even demand it.  But how can we truly foster a culture of respect throughout our schools, one that permeates and underlines all of our day to day work? We need to start by respecting our educators as professionals.   Do educators these days feel respected? Are educators truly motivated and satisfied? Do they feel a sense of Autonomy, Belonging and Competence?

Being respected as a professional is motivating and satisfying.   I recently learned just that from my colleague Marie-Clare as she posed a few scenarios to view the ABC’s through an educator’s lens.

Consider the following scenarios.

I am working in a school where:

1. I have lots of leeway to arrange my work & classroom (Autonomy).

2. I love the people I work with adults & students) and believe together we can be successful in impacting our students, school and community. (Belonging).

3. The job offers challenges that thoroughly engage me and invests in my ongoing professional growth. (Competence).

Great!  Good for them. It sounds like they are working in a culture that promotes mutual respect and cultivates intrinsic motivation.  But what if one of the three areas of autonomy, belonging and competence are out of balance? Consider this next scenario.

I am working in a school where:

1. I have lots of leeway to arrange my work & workspace.

2. I love the people I work with (adults & students) and believe together we can be successful in impacting our students, school and community. (Belonging).

3. I haven’t been provided the time, opportunity and skills to learn & teach this new curriculum adoption.

Not feeling competent significantly decreases the ability to be effective or motivated and the feelings of mutual respect are strained. There is still respect derived from Autonomy and Belonging, but this educator needs support in their own feelings of competence or in the competence of the system to allow them to be successful.  Some additional support, training, and time to be collaborative could help this educator.  

What about this one?

I am working in a school where:

1. What I do, how I do it, how I arrange everything is completely decided by others.

2. I love the people I work with ( adults & students) and believe together we can be successful in impacting our students, school and community. (Belonging).

3. The job offers challenges that thoroughly engage me and invests in my ongoing professional growth. (Competence).

It is clear that this teacher does not feel trusted and is frustrated with the lack of autonomy.  Autonomy suggests an element of trust which is essential to feel respected and motivated. 

I am working in a school where:

1. I have lots of leeway to arrange my work & workspace.

2. People aren’t very nice to me; I don’t really like them, either

3. The job offers challenges that thoroughly engage me and invests in my ongoing professional growth.

Belonging is a big one for me personally.  If I feel a sense of belonging, I can push through the disequilibrium of the other two areas. Creating a community within our schools for our educators and students to feel a deep sense of belonging is key to mutual respect and intrinsic motivation.  

What about the poor educator who experiences a lack of all three indicators?  

I am working in a school where:

1. What I do, how I do it, how I arrange everything is completely decided by others.

2. People aren’t very nice to me; I don’t really like them either.

3. I really don’t have the time/skills to learn & teach this whole new curriculum.

We must support this educator using the ABC’s.  As an educator, do a self-assessment of your own ABC’s.  Do you feel confident that they are all in good standing?  How can you advocate with your colleagues or administrator to enhance these areas?  As an administrator, how would your teachers navigate these three areas? What could you do to increase the feelings of autonomy, belonging, and competence?

We must build healthy school cultures beginning with the adults in the building.  The culture of the adults impacts students and the community. Building a motivating culture of respect can really be as easy as ABC.  

Want to go deeper? CLICK HERE to download a FREE staff activity that I created to help you review the ABC’s with your team.

Sarah Hayden
Instructional Coach, TEEN TRUTH

Contact Us

5 + 14 =

Contact Us
Building School Culture

Download Our Free School Culture Book

Thank You for Subscribing!