And now for a revelation:
Having kids changes your life.
I know, I know, powerful stuff. What can I say? I’m deep and complex and able to breakdown the human condition with ease.
But seriously, it seems like every post I write (or read), every discussion I have about education, every thought I have for what I’d love to see change in schools, it somehow keeps bringing me back to my little girl. From what I hear, that’s pretty normal. Maggie is my first child, and my wife and I are still overcome with the joy of her arrival. I want everything to be great for her. I reflect on what type of parent I want to be, and all the lessons I learned by having two wonderful parents that raised me.
I know a big part of what I pass on to my daughter will be through the type of behavior, decision making and through my actions that I model for her on a daily basis. I’ll want to show her patience, understanding, humility, compassion, empathy, courage, confidence and commitment. It will never be perfect, there will be times that my actions or my words will show her weaknesses, maybe when I lose my cool or I take the easy way out. I understand we can’t always be the perfect example for our children, but like every parent, I will want to strive to do the best job I can.
The topic of modelling has crossed my mind a number of times in the past few weeks, clearly the motivation to write this post. Some staff from our school and I traveled down to Red Deer to see Pasi Sahlberg and Alfie Kohn speak this past week. On the way back we had a conversation in the car about how we would love to have the Canadian public feel as much faith and pride in its teachers as the Finnish people have for their educators. The idea that we can only control what we do, not what people think was brought up, and then we discussed all the ways we could showcase the professionalism of our teachers. We talked about how each teacher that takes the idea of professional growth and learning seriously models for other educators the way we all should conduct ourselves. It got me thinking about just how many ways that we as teachers have an effect on others with our modelling, and how much further it goes than just our classroom management.
We Model For Our Profession
My wife is a physician, and there is a clear understanding that doctors need to continually be learning and current with their practice, with medications, with diagnostic tools etc. In our profession, I think we all know that this is true for teachers as well. Most of us do this on a regular basis, but it stays behind the scenes and not a lot of people know about it. We need to be more open with this professional learning we do. We need to share it with other educators, and we need to showcase it to our stakeholders. How many parents know what the teachers at their children’s schools are working on improving and learning about? Students are our business, and parents along with our school communities are our stakeholders. If we want our communities to have more faith and pride in our teachers, they need to know what we are doing. Find ways to share the professional learning that is occurring by yourself, and the staff at your schools. Let’s model the type of professionalism that the tax-paying public can support and be proud of.
We Model For Our Parents
My principal talked to me on that car ride home about how having kids can make you a little bit crazy. She was saying how even though you try to be as calm, rational and level headed as possible, you can’t shake that innate desire to protect, and maybe, stand up for your child. When situations arise where a parent has an issue with what is going on at school, we have to know that they come in with a fairly narrow view of the situation, an artificially limited scope due to the limited information and love for their child. It is so important that our interactions with parents always show a fair, honest and open approach to the situation, one that not only takes into account all of the students involved, but also an understanding for a parent’s natural instinct to protect and care for their child. Some times we may even model certain tools that a parent may not have the greatest handle on like conflict resolution, positive feedback or even the power of modelling has on their child.
We Model For Our Students
Of course we all know that we model for our students when we don’t raise our voice, we don’t lose our temper, or we don’t bully our students. I am finding that the importance of our modelling for our students is growing all the time beyond these classroom interactions. Often we have students who are being raised by one parent, or a relative. We have students who may have parents who are struggling with issues that hinder their ability to be at their best. I’ll never forget when I was working in an alternate education setting and my principal at the time put forth one of the most powerful ideas I had ever heard. He asked me “Have you ever thought that you might be the best adult role model that your students have? Do you understand that your students might learn from you how a healthy adult carries themselves, handles responsibility or even handles conflict?”. Don’t underestimate the impact you have on your students. Its a power that comes with a great deal of responsibility (Did I just quote Spiderman?). If you tell them a story about a fight you got into when you were in high school, you model for that student that its ok to get in fights in school, because you are a successful adult and you give the student the ok they need to justify those actions. I know that we all entered the profession to educate our students, not parent them, but the more that students come home to empty houses, or are in difficult situations where their parent’s ability to raise them is hampered, the more you become the prime model that will guide your students’ decisions.
I know its not crazy to want to be a good role model for my daughter, but it a little crazy to start thinking about how her teachers wil model for her… she’s 9 months old. By the time that Maggie would get to my school, the importance of this modelling by teachers may be even more crucial. Its my hope that when Maggie is in middle school, school leaders along with the professionals in their building have embraced this importance and helped it shape their practice. A building full of educators who understand and accept this responsibility will always be one that exudes care, integrity and especially professionalism.