We are always teaching our students. Even when we are not teaching, we are teaching our students. In fact, when we are not teaching is probably when we are most teaching because kids often learn by adult example.
So what is the example you set from the front of the room?
It’s pretty well known that scores of secondary educators in this country will be showing fluff movies over the course of the last few weeks of the school year.
Doesn’t that teach kids a whole lotta stuff we’d really rather not have them learn?
BTW, I am not talking about showing a film like Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful to cap a unit on Holocaust studies. (Trust me, I love the cinema.) But I am quite wary of showing The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift… in Math Class!
So let’s look at some of the things kids learn when two teachers approach the end of the year from different perspectives.
Teacher X (TX) shows fluff movies and does silly worksheets because they are counting down the days to summer and just can’t wait to head for the door.
Teacher Y (TY) works ’em to the end trying to make the most out of classroom minutes over the course of the last few weeks of school but yes, still likes the idea of summer and is excited to take a break as well.
Things that TX is teaching by means of personal example:
- I don’t care if you learn anything else.
- This school doesn’t have the means to control me and prevent me from having a bad attitude/shortchanging you. (“Welcome to the real world, punk!”)
- Professionalism when you are a teacher, matters little.
- I only pay lip service to the phrase, “Your education matters.”
- Who says surfin’ ebay doesn’t pay? I am collecting full wages right now.
- You’ll be out of my hair soon enough.
Things that TY is teaching by means of personal example:
- I don’t just talk the talk up here, I walk the walk and in life, you’ll come to discover, this matters a great deal.
- It doesn’t matter whether or not this school has the means to control me… I am still going to carry myself as if I were a professional and do my job in the best manner I know how – as I have been asking you to do all school year long.
- Habits of quality are not faucets to be turned on and off. You can’t just flip a switch in life. If you want to be excellent at something, you must always strive to be excellent – otherwise you will not be.
- Learning doesn’t end so why would you ever assume there’s nothing more we should try to tackle in class before we take a summer break?
Obviously, there are so many more things we could add to each of these lists but what seems self evident is that if we really want to forge better character in our kids, we have to exemplify it ourselves via our deeds and not our language.
Phoning it in doesn’t mean you are not teaching; you are teaching things most parents would probably rather not have their kids learn from you.
(FYI, I am going to host a free webinar on Finishing Strong next week (May 19th from 6:30 – 7:30 EST. If interested, you can sign up here.)