Teaching the Three R’s

three r's

Reading. Writing. Arithmetic. These are the basic academic skills. There are also three R’s that are important to our leadership abilities–Respect, Responsibility and Resourcefulness.

I would like to give credit to the person who initiated this phrase, but when I did a search for these 3 R’s on the educational research data base (ERIC), I received over 59,000 matches. About ten years ago I first came across the concept of the 3 R’s of leadership and began using them with my elementary-aged students.

Principles control the consequences of our choices. This was a concept I wanted my students to understand through direct experience. The immediacy of using the 3 R’s was evident as students went through their decision-making process.

Before acting, our students were encouraged to ask themselves three questions:

  • Am I acting respectfully?
  • Am I responding with ability to the situation?
  • Have I thought of all my resources?

The consequences of using or disregarding the principles of the 3 R’s became evident to these elementary-aged students. The 3 R questions also gave them some language to discuss challenges and the effects of different choices with each other and with their teachers.

Some of the outcomes we discovered together follow:

Respect. The consequences of respecting yourself are that you like yourself and trust yourself to be a person of integrity. Not respecting yourself gives you the opposite consequence. Respecting others and their property gives you their trust and mutual respect.

Responsibility. Responding with ability gives you the confidence to know that you tried the best you knew how. It also helps you examine how you might have done things differently and how you might want to react in the future. The consequences also allow reflection on skills you might want to develop. Disregarding your responsibilities can put yourself and others in a mess fast.

Resourcefulness. The consequence of being resourceful is that you can be creative and think outside the box and do things in a way that can be uniquely yours. Otherwise, you might sit around all day and say, ”I can’t do that because….”

The students in my classroom of six- to nine-year-olds loved putting on plays. We had a book of one-act plays that the students enjoyed practicing and performing. When we first started with our plays, we ran into difficulties with students dropping out before the play was performed, not learning their lines or complaining that the props or costumes were not right.

A new staff member introduced the concept of having a performance contract that stated the practice times, performance date and time and the responsibilities of each person in the play. The contract idea was a stroke of genius for highlighting consequences of using, or not using, respect, responsibility and resourcefulness.

The plays with the contract, besides encouraging reading, writing and dramatic skills, forced the students to put the principles of the 3 R’s to use. Not getting along with another cast member? Use the 3R’s.

Someone not learning his or her lines? ”Are you responding with ability?” I’d hear them ask each other. Need a mountain for a prop? How about the refrigerator box in the garage, draping a sheet from the ceiling, or painting on a large window? ”That’s being resourceful,” the students said.

We had a few shows that never made it to performance due to more than one participant’s disregarding the 3 R’s. Disregard respectfulness, and no one wants to work with you. Disregard responsibility, then people don’t know their lines and props, or costumes aren’t prepared. Disregard resourcefulness leaving a ”can-do” attitude on the table, then working on the play is not fun, and creativity doesn’t get a chance to emerge.

Principles control the consequences of our choices.

Using the 3 R’s of respect, responsibility and resourcefulness can teach our children the results of their decisions and actions.

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4 Responses to “Teaching the Three R’s”

  1. norm woodward

    May I suggest the probable source of your 3r’s might be John Rosemond? He produced a wonderful series of films (and probably books and articles) teach parents how to instill these values in pre-school kids, probably in the 70s or 80s. BTW, his example of successful application was “the Greatest Generation” who learned these lessons through upbringing and circumstances. Also, he empathized that Respect was to be towards self and others, especially those in authority. I guess that would called today “The Talk.” Unfortunately Rosemond stopped producing the videos, but great viewing if you can find them.

    • Norm,

      Thanks for that information. I’ve read a lot of John Rosemond over the years and that seems like a likely source.

      The idea of the 3 R’s still resonates with me. Respect. Resourcefulness. Responsibility.

      Hard to go wrong when I’ve applied those principles in my life.

  2. I remember reading an article in one of those airplane magazines back in the early 90’s on a plane trip. Wish I would have kept the magazine. It was several pages, had never heard of those three R’s before, and have used them ever since. Great concept, great focus in raising children as well.


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