How can we be the best role models for our students?
To be or not to be a role model? That is the question. Are teachers unwittingly positioned as role models because of the job title being linked with responsibility for learning? Does the label weigh us down?
There are many superlatives accompanying the term ‘role model’. Inspirational, immaculate, influential… the list is endless. The label can make us constantly ask ourselves how we can measure up to these high standards.
How to be a good role model
Here are some tips for how we can succeed in the quest for teachers to become good role models and maintain this status.
I have called it the D.E.C.I.P.H.E.R. model
1. D is for Discipline
Advocating good discipline within a stable environment can be the gateway to good learning within the teaching environment. It also determines our level of seriousness to be a role model.
We are all too aware that failure to implement discipline with consistency is what inhibits learners’ chances of success. If there is a failure in students respecting their teacher, we need to address it immediately. Also, if students do not respect each other, instant re-evaluation is needed to reverse negative behaviours.
Enforcement of a discipline system that learners fully understand, can avoid any confusion. Do we use a set number of warnings or consequences such as contact with a parent, guardian or carer if behaviour is not up to the expected standard? We cannot be narrowly focused on the discipline system itself but must have individualised methods in our arsenal. These methods must be capable of refocusing each learner.
2. E is for Energetic motivator
We need to be able to broaden our use of more energetic means to communicate content or messages in a motivational manner. What inspirational affirmations can we introduce to individuals and groups to instil belief in their ability? Do we make an effort to create engagement from the lesson outset? Do we put energy into ensuring that content is enjoyed and learnt for the long-term, rather than merely meeting specification requirements?
How we challenge ourselves to do so can determine our willingness to be role models in each lesson. The fun part as teachers, is waiting for the moment when learners gleam with pride at their achievements! You will know you have tried your utmost to deliver an engaging experience when learners thank you, years after teaching them, and do so with a warmest of smiles!
3. C is for Centre stage
The centre stage in our classrooms is for the students and should not be primarily used as a pedestal to show off our knowledge. It is very easy to get this muddled when we are observed in lessons. Do we feel we have to put on a performance as teachers, which occasionally leads to diversions away from the learning?
We need to take a backseat and provide opportunities for students to show their highest levels of excellence. This is what can set us apart as role models. How can learners receive acknowledgement from teaching staff? Whether it is through intrinsic or extrinsic rewarding, we must show that we are recognising learners and their work as the centrepieces to the teaching.
4. I is for Inspirational innovator
When our energy stores are at their lowest ebb, our confidence can begin to diminish. It can be tempting to use outdated resources. What innovative quizzes or games can we use within lessons? How can we spark debates in interesting and original ways? How can we get learners to be interested in feeding back what they have learnt? Can we make methods such as vlogging part of the daily business of teaching and learning?
It is the “learning experience” that our students remember us for according to headteacher and writer Danny Steele.
5. P is for Professional
Are we still displaying significant moral qualities to enable our learners to trust us? We must listen indiscriminately and be reliable mentors that can problem solve effectively. We must be approachable but know when to remain aloof when required to stand apart as leaders. If not, students will neglect to open up to us about any issues of concern.
We cannot expect our learners to respect others if we overtly do the opposite as part of our teaching make-up. We must respect learners, support staff, fellow teachers and in fact all staff members involved in raising attainment levels for our learners. Professionalism is not perfectionism, but accepting that others are holding us in high esteem. We must make the effort to set the example.
6. H is for Holler back!
As much as they may not admit it, learners DO want to find out what we thought of their last piece of coursework they spent their time slaving over. Many teachers will have seen a perception shift in how seriously learners view teachers that take time to comment on work they have produced.
Yes, there are times when we are overwhelmed with the sheer volume of work being submitted from all corners. It is then that we must provide written acknowledgement and verbal feedback in a timely manner to show that we are not ignoring the efforts that they have put into their work.
7. E is for Expand your mind
We must model ourselves on what we want our learners to aspire to. We must start with providing our full commitment to them within lessons. Teachers that sit (or stand) amongst learners and are fully mindful of the lesson time and opportunities within the time-frame show genuine commitment to the cause.
Also, if we then show that we ourselves are ambitious, our learners will mimic this and will know how important self-development is. If they are wowed by us, they are more likely to be on time and engaged. Their decision to attend is a direct reflection of their drive towards career goals. It is the responsibility of teaching staff to guide them to gravitate towards the best choices, if we consider ourselves role models?
8. R is for Reflect reality
Lastly, and arguably most importantly, being a role model means that we must undergo a lifelong process of reflection. Teachers need role models too.
We must reflect on how we teach, acknowledge student achievements in lessons and beyond and target set. Diverting away from education, ex-Team GB Sprinter, Jeanette Kwakye refers to the term ‘real-model’. This is to acknowledge that any aspiring role model should discuss negative realities linked to occupation roles. Accepting that failure occurs, makes it apparent that role models are not perfect. It is these imperfections and our resilience to positively adjust that can make a teacher a figure to be emulated.
How will learners judge our impact?
The true measure of a role model is who learners perceive them to be. This is a calling to all teachers and school or college support staff who could already be viewed as role models. How can we genuinely display the drive to not just teach, but to actualise positive and long-term growth-mind-sets within learners?
Let’s consciously make this the year we increase the groundwork on putting regular measures in place to sustain the teacher-role-model influence as an attainable one. #TeacherRoleModels