Children Follow Our Example

I feel like I’m coming a bit late to the party, but I’ve been rolling this around in my head, and very nearly gave up trying to figure out what I wanted to say. When I originally asked to contribute to this topic, I’d just discovered that I was working with students whose parents cared enough to send them to a tutoring center, but really didn’t care what happened beyond that. Sadly, the students reflected that attitude in their own self-confidence and work ethic.

I was angry. I’m not a parent. I have no plans to ever become one. But I am a teacher, and I’ve been one for a very long time. I understand that part of my job is to be the grown-up who cares, because my students may not have another one nearby. I had originally thought to write on that, but then something else happened.

A student caught in her father’s major life changes and the challenges of becoming a teenager suddenly started doing a lot better in her math class. We were all very, very proud of her. When I asked her what inspired the turn-around, she told me that she had started passing tests because she asked herself one question every time she got stuck: What would Rebecca ask?

As teachers and parents, we all hope that the children we’re helping to raise will come away a better reflection of who we are. We hope that they’ll follow our better examples and ignore our flaws. That’s exactly what happened with this student. She took my teaching strategy of asking questions and used it to help herself think through what she was doing. It allowed her to remember what she needed to do, to double check her work, and to finally raise her grades in math.

Children are incredible creatures. They learn by practicing what they see around them, and then they have the ability to build on what they see, be it for better or for worse. Luckily for us, most children figure out fairly quickly which behaviors should be emulated and which ones shouldn’t. When we’re lucky, they even actually choose to mimic the ones worth being picked up.

Originally posted at Talking Story

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