Different countries have different cultures and different laws and rules. It might include different perceptions of what respect and even manners look like.
Most of these expectations are not formal laws and we won’t even find them in rule books. They are culturally perceived and accepted to be indicators of respectful social interaction with others in society. Some of these unwritten rules and expectations are generational and will change over time, but others won’t date. These are the ones that will still apply when our students reach the workforce one day.
Part of our students’ preparation for the big world beyond school should, therefore, include development in these areas. It fits with the 21st Century skills ‘Collaboration’ and ‘Communication’.
Imagine an important business meeting, arranged with stakeholders across the world (it could be face-to- face or a virtual one). Imagine some of these people are not on time or don’t turn up. What applies now will apply then.
Imagine, in another scenario, rules are not adhered to because individuals deem them as unimportant; if these are safety rules it could mean serious injury or death.
Dress code might seem silly to some, but it could have everything to do with branding, marketing or even be a safety issue. At an interview, even a virtual one, personal presentation, with appropriate dress and language, is still universally valued.
With digital technology, adding a new dimension to social interaction, we have new ‘unwritten rules’ that pertains specifically to this form of communication and collaboration. We can communicate digitally in a manner that earns the respect of someone we have never even met, or lose their respect. We can demonstrate respect for other’s intellectual property and art, and by obeying the ‘rules’ we can keep ourselves, and our property, safe in the virtual world.
In our school we have rules, some specific, like rules about school clothes and hair, some about being on time. Some rules are developed in class, others for outdoor play time, but they all speak about being prepared, being courteous, being safe, being respectful and allowing learning.
We need to foster in our students the understanding that workplaces have expectations of punctuality, ethics, rules for safety, presentation and respectful communication with others. With the encouragement of teachers and parents, students will develop this understanding and we will see it at school already. Students will turn up at school on time, dressed according to the uniform policy expectations, and will demonstrate respectful behavior.
To grow this discipline, to demonstrate respect for your workplace, will develop ‘character’, another of the 21st century skills. Students will grow up knowing how to show respect, and in turn earn the respect of those operating in the global society alongside of them.