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Respect comes from experience, not textbooks

by Mohammad Ghazal

At The English College Dubai, there are five values that act as a symbolic foundation to our school. Although all are equally significant, there is one value that stands out to me the most: respect. The dictionary defines respect as “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” Although a dependable definition, it does not fulfil all that the idea of respect lives up to. This is because respect is eminently personal, altered to every individual. 

The respect a new mother has for her parents, or the respect a child living in poverty has for a certain role model in the media, even the respect that you have for your friends, your family, your students. Although the same thing, it is perceived in many ways, through many different experiences. Which is why it is so difficult to confine it to a single definition. Respect is within us. Around us. Respect is loyalty, humility, integrity, compassion, selflessness – the list could go on. The values that make up respect reflect the magnitude and importance of it in our lives. The main source of my knowledge about the importance of respect is through school. Although a part of our school values, it was never taught to me. This is because respect is not something that can be taught from a textbook. 

If a teacher were to sit students in a classroom with that intention, the students would have been told about respect, rather than learning what it was. Instead it is something I experienced. The respect reinforced within the school is not solely by students complying to teacher’s orders. Rather, it is the students reflecting the respect that they are shown, and vice versa. Respect is what interlaces the teachers and students of The English College. It is an active process; the respect that students show teachers fuels the respect that teachers show students. It is evident that the respect infused throughout the school has a positive effect on students. But rather than assuming and speaking on behalf of the school, I asked a few peers what respect meant to them. Answers varied from respecting other people’s opinions and beliefs without judgement, to having a sense of understanding of one’s surroundings, to even having mutual admiration and respect between two people. No matter what the answer that students gave, it was clear they understood what this value means, and how they can apply it to their lives.

I would like to express my gratitude towards The English College for reinforcing these five values – particularly respect, because these values are essential not only within school, but in real life too. No matter what age, or what point in life an individual is in, respect is applicable in every aspect. By respecting others, you are highlighting their individuality, showing tolerance and acceptance of their differences. A world without respect would make us all feel small, or insignificant, leading to a cycle of decline as this sense of immateriality takes a toll on our mental health. In contrast to disrespect, respect recognises society for the greatness that it is – the greatness that we are. 

In addition to this, respect at EC has taught me one of the most important lessons: self-respect. Although the saying goes “treat others the way you would like to be treated”, I think it is important to treat yourself with the same kindness and respect that you give to others. Self-respect is an almost dictating factor in the way that I make decisions. In a way, having self-respect can save your life: since it affects both your mental and physical health, it can help you make good decisions, avoid parasitic relationships, take care of your physical body, and so on. Respect is a value that has been woven into my past, present, and will continue to be in my future. From a young age, I had the mistaken notion that respecting someone was fearing or obeying them – a form of acquiescence. 

Thankfully, as a result of respect being one of the college values, my perspective has evolved to recognise it for what it truly is. I know that true respect is a choice, as it is earned out of admiration and not forced out of fear. I believe it is essential to bring the lessons that respect and The English College have taught me into all aspects of my life. I would like to continue to treat myself with self-respect by rewarding myself for any achievements and recognising when my kindness is being taken for granted. 

I would like to base any professional relationships as well as friendships on mutual respect, by surrounding myself with an environment where respect acts as a base for my potential to grow. 

Advice I would give to a new student is that respect is – in a way – an interaction, by treating everyone with respect, it will eventually come back to you. Yet above that is to just feel it as it comes, as the best lessons are learnt through experience, not through words. The values we have within the school are very important. Although academic achievement and effort hold great power in determining our success in the future, the lessons the values teach us determine whether we can hold on to this success, and take it to the next level. Without aspiration, gratitude, integrity, resilience, and respect, none of our dreams would be achievable. 

By Edom Aweke, pupil at The English college, Dubai

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