In The Trenches

Let’s show some “fifth grade respect”​

Published on March 18, 2019 Back to blog
Grade school kids with hands raised

Last Wednesday, for STEAM week, I volunteered to speak at my son’s 5th grade class. While I initially thought I’d talk about the world of advertising (creativity, math/analytics, etc.), I thought it may be more fun to chat about the relationship between drumming (Arts) and Math. Upon arriving in his classroom (and after the Pledge of Allegiance), Josh’s teacher asked the kids to sit down on the rug in the front of me, and reminded them all to “please show respect for Mr. Freedman.” In response, the children sat quietly, looked up, smiled and demonstrated that they were ready to listen. 

As I sat in front of the children, comparing fractions of time (1/4 notes, 1/8 notes, etc.) to fractions of a pie (especially appropriate for Pi Day), they nodded their heads with interest and understanding. As I played rhythms on the drum (a cajon, to be exact), they smiled and quietly moved their bodies to the beat. And, when I asked who wanted to give drumming a try, they raised their hands in hopes to be selected. 

As I engaged with them, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “If only adults could always show this same level of respect for people in meetings and presentations…” So, today, I share with you some tips about showing respect, inspired by fifth graders:

  1. Be present – It was so refreshing to sit in front of a room of people without any screens in front of them. Adults take note: Turn off your ringer, close your email and grab a seat up front. If you are unwilling to do so, you probably should be elsewhere. (NOTE: If you are taking notes on a computer, let others know what you are doing. Otherwise, others may assume you are not really present.) 
  2.  Be an active listener – Just like the fifth graders did, look at the person speaking, nod your head, smile, take notes, or give some indication that you are actually hearing what the other person(s) is saying. Even if you don’t agree with the content, at least show some signs that you are interested in their perspective. And, if you feel the urge to fall asleep (which we’ve all seen happen), please leave the room before doing so.
  3.  Participate when appropriate – Participation is not always applicable. However, when it is, do so. Ask questions. Share your perspective. Be a part of the action. It will make the meeting more interesting and valuable for everyone. (My favorite part of the presentation was tapping along to the beat with all of the kids.) 
  4.  Be polite – If you need to be late, don’t make a grand entrance when you arrive. If you have to leave early, do so quietly. If you have a question, raise your hand (or, at least, don’t interrupt others while they are speaking). Don’t start side conversations while others are speaking. And, say “thank you” to those who coordinated, led and participated in the meeting. It’s just the right thing to do.
  5.  Don’t use the “Mute” excuse – While it is polite to put your phone on mute while calling into a meeting (we don’t need to hear the baby crying, dog barking or traffic outside), it is not an excuse for any of the above. We all know that “Sorry, I was on mute” or “Can you please repeat the question? I couldn’t hear you.” most often really means, “I wasn’t listening until I heard my name mentioned.” (NOTE: Video calls can help address this issue.)

OK, the last one is a bit of a pet peeve (well, now that I think of it, most all of them are). However, we all have limited time – so let’s be respectful of the time we spend with one another. We’re all guilty of breaking these rules, and sometimes it just takes a reminder to get us back on track. If fifth graders can do it, I’m certain we all can too.

Until next time..

Jeff Freedman
CEO/Managing Partner
Small Army | Finn Partners