During recess duty the other day, I started to climb the monkey bars. I felt particularly excited and energetic that day, so I started to do some pull-ups as well. Within a minute, nearly every 2nd grader was trying both. They were so excited that I was out there with them, and they wanted to follow my lead. This was intentional. I wanted them to see me, their physical education teacher, exercising and practicing what I preach. I also greet students at the gate when they arrive at school, usually dancing and eating a banana, in hopes that seeing me happy and eating healthy will motivate them to do so as well. However, there are so many other times that students see us, and we don’t even realize it. Students are ALWAYS watching us, and it’s up to us to be that role model.
We have all heard the saying, “Young kids are like sponges. They absorb everything!” Author Maria Montessori states, “The things the child sees are not just remembered; they form part of his soul. He incarnates in himself all in the world about him that his eyes see and his ears hear.” It is believed that children develop 85% of their core brain structure by the time they are five years old. Let’s consider all of these notes about children. My guess is that once students start to adore and respect us, because they know we truly care about them, they will probably want to copy and imitate us even more.
We already have their attention, which is half the battle. Now, it’s up to us to set a good example. Students see us in the hallways. They notice our demeanor and how we handle ourselves when something unexpected happens. When the principal walks into our room and interrupts our class with bad news, students see our response. Do we stay calm, keep it private, and discuss it at another time? Let’s hope so because they are watching. Recently, I had a student come up to me and say, I loved that you emailed my Mom about how good I’m doing. Thank you.” I had no idea the parent would read the email to the child, but she did.
The old proverb, “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t sit well with students, nor should it. If I heard that as a kid, I would think that was unfair. If we expect students to do something like show respect to others, we must do so as well. As teachers, let’s face it. Whether we want them to or not, students are ALWAYS watching. Let’s see their curiosity and attentiveness as a gift and an opportunity to be a great role-model.