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“BE RESPECTFUL” is STILL A Bad Rehearsal Rule!

This awesome list has been floating around the internet and deeply connected to a major point that I’ve written about in the past: “BE RESPECTFUL” is a BAD REHEARSAL RULE!


A guideline (the term that I prefer to use instead of rule) is intended to be clear in it’s function. It addresses a specific behavior or action and says, “This action is or is not permitted”. Every Guideline should be clear enough to allow a teacher to instantly recognize, without any analysis, whether an incorrect behavioral choice was made and it doesn’t require additional explanation or discussion with the student. Essentially, effective guidelines are intended to keep all students engaged and maintain the rehearsal flow.

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Addressing this awesome list that explains 100% Respect

I fully agree with the premise of this super-popular internet sign. Especially in a self-selected choral program where anyone can join, these 10 actions will make a program successful. If every student, regardless of talent, did those 10 things, there would be a high level of respect and we would accomplish amazing things. With that said,  I firmly believe  “BE RESPECTFUL” is STILL a bad rehearsal rule!


Here’s why:

Breaking down the “100% Respect List”,  there are two types of actions: Factual and Subjective


Factual: Actions we can decisively judge, requiring virtually no thought to observe
Subjective: Actions that require a judgment call, usually followed by an explanation

Factual Actions on the “Respect list”: Here are the only 2 actions that are decisive:

Being on time – the rehearsal begins and either the student is there or they are not.

Being prepared – the rehearsal begins and either the student has their music and a pencil, or they do not.


In my classroom, I have one Guideline to address both of these issues: Be on time and prepared to class.

Subjective Actions on the “Respect List: Here are 8 actions that  require both thought and explanation:

Work Ethic – while we generally can recognize a person who exhibits good work ethic, not all people with good work ethic look or act the same way. It is also a cumulative behavior and is observed over time.

Effort – is this how hard someone works? Is this how tall they sit up, how much eye contact they give, how they hold up their music, or how much they open their mouth when they sing? There are so many different things that could determine one’s effort.

Body Language – great body alignment and/or posture will earn respect, no doubt. But body language is also evident in how a student enters the room, what they look like when we are speaking with them, etc. These behaviors are fluid throughout a rehearsal, as they are not a finite action. If we focused on one specific action, such as, body alignment while singing, we could then specify an appropriate behavior and create a guideline for that action.

Energy – being vibrant is definitely connected to body language and is highly subjective.

Attitude – a good attitude makes for a great student, but what does that mean? Is it body language, holding up music, asking lots of questions, etc. Is it not making negative comments? Is it someone who kisses up in rehearsal? I think a good attitude is viewed differently from teacher to teacher.

Passion – some students are passionate at things that we are unaware of. They may sing with their mouth half-open in class and then go home and practice for 3 hours a day. They may be passionate about Bach, and not interested in Eric Whitacre. The could love ear-training and hate sight-singing because they are unsuccessful at it. Must they be passionate about everything?

Being Coachable – this is a great skill and again, coach-ability is highly subjective. We all expect different things from our students. Some of us view “being coachable” as a student who practice a lot, while others want their students to be self-reflective and present, and some teachers want their students to do exactly what they are told. The chemistry between a teacher and student is not tangible.

Doing Extra – what a wonderful quality but some students do plenty of extra and not enough of what they are supposed to be doing. Again, this is highly subjective.

Why is “Be Respectful” S-T-I-L-L bad rehearsal rule?

If these 10 things constitute being respectful, (2 being factual and 8 being subjective), there are several issues with making “Be Respectful” a rule. First off, “respect”, consists of 10 separate things, which is far too broad on its own to enforce, even if we assumed these were all factual actions, there are still far too many things to enforce under one guideline. Even if we decided to use each specific aspect of “respect” as an individual guideline, 10 rules is far too many to have.

It is my belief that 5 is a solid number of guidelines that can be effectively learned and enforced. On top of that, 8 out of 10 of these actions cannot be properly enforced.

So then, how do we get students to “BE RESPECTFUL” if “BE RESPECTFUL” is a bad rehearsal rule?

I want my students to “be respectful” and I expect them to “be respectful” in my class. I love the sign and support hanging it up in a classroom, as it is positive, and may motivate some students. With that said, that sign will not create respect in a classroom.

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I recommend creating effective guidelines where only specific, factual actions can be addressed.

The best way to tackle the issue of respect is by working backwards; start by listing every action that you, the teacher, consider to be disrespectful:

Here’s an example of a list of things that I believe are disrespectful:

  1. showing up late to class
  2. being unprepared
  3. calling out
  4. talking to neighbors
  5. making negative comments about others
  6. touching others
  7. kicking
  8. hitting
  9. not following directions
  10. packing up early
  11. chewing gum
  12. having cell phone out/texting
  13. having work out for other classes
  14. passing notes

If you can specifically recognize an action or behavior, you can then create a Guidelines to address that action. When adding to this list, be as specific as possible. The key is to find a way to specifically address ALL of these “disrespectful” behaviors within a series of 5 Guidelines. I suggest reading the blog post below to learn the “Guidelines for choosing effective Guidelines”.

Specific actions can be addressed clearly with broader verbiage. As I mentioned earlier, I address  “Being on time and prepared” as one Guideline, not two. Here are two other examples of broader guideline that addresses several specific actions:

Guideline: Raise your hand and wait to be acknowledged when you wish to speak.

This addresses: calling out, talking to neighbors, and making negative comments of others.

Guideline: Keep hands and feet to yourself.

This addresses: touching others, hitting, kicking, etc.


The “Be Respectful is a Bad Rehearsal Rule” blog post also offers a long list of EFFECTIVE guidelines that handle just about any specific disrespectful behavior.


Yes, there are intangibles to RESPECT, and there may be things that we cannot address within a series of 5 Guidelines; with that said, focusing our energy on addressing tangible actions that are disruptive and disrespectful will be highly effective in creating RESPECT in our classroom. Furthermore, once these specific actions are minimized or eliminated from the rehearsal, the intangible behaviors such as “being coachable”, “work ethic”, “attitude”, and “doing more” will occur on it’s own.


This blog post is a follow-up to the popular blog post, “BE RESPECTFUL” is a BAD REHEARSAL RULE!

Alternative Concert Assignment – assignment for students who miss the concert

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