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Teacher as Model

Live with wolves, and you learn to howl - Spanish proverb

"I wanna be just like you - boo boo bee do . . ."

The importance of teacher as model cannot be overstated. Social Learning Theory, a broad field of human research, is based almost completely on the effect of the things we see others do and the ways that children learn to behave like people. Who we are as teachers and people will most assuredly send a louder message than anything else we hope to teach. And after all, what could be more important to teach, than how to be a wonderful, self fulfilled, caring human being?

The following anecdote underscores the importance of modeling on youth:
    When I was little, a friend had a dog, a mutt, who was pregnant and due to have her puppies in a week or so. The dog was playing out in the yard one day and got in the way of the lawn mower and her two hind legs got cut off. She was rushed to the vet who sewed her up, and in a short time the dog learned to walk again. She didnāt spend any time worrying, she just learned to walk by taking two steps in the front and flipping up her backside and taking two steps and flipping up her backside again. Soon she gave birth to six little puppies, all in perfect health. She nursed them and then weaned them. And when they learned to walk, they all walked just like her. - Gilda Radner
To become a good model, a person has to become aware of who they are and to take comfort and discomfort with that person in stride. It sounds threatening to those who have never gone looking for self, but actually, it is a very freeing experience. It takes faith in the human condition - something every teacher needs anyway - faith that nothing one meets on an internal journey is such a terrible burden, that it wonāt be lightened by knowing we are carrying it. It takes a willingness to embrace self, to forgive self, to welcome self home - and after all, how many years ago did that self arrive, all these passing years missing a proper and respectful homecoming celebration.

Go ahead! Welcome the wayward son home as the father did in the Bible. Kill the fatted calf, quiet the detractors who might say no celebration is allowed for those who make mistakes, and when the party is over, enjoy the freedom and responsibility of living fully with self and in the current moment.

You grow up the day you have your first real laugh, -- at yourself - Ethel Barrymore

Teacher as Model
I know that I have to be a model for my students all the time. But it doesnāt just work in the classroom. As I go out into my rural community, I am seen by parents as a model, too. For two years I have been teaching the intermediate grades. The parents of my students tell me ( at parent conferences, in the grocery store, as I take my evening walk) that at home their child is always imitating me or quoting me.

One of the parents told me this story.
We were having a discussion about giving Jade a birthday party. I said that the party could begin at school since it was on a school day. Jade looked at me and said,
"My birthday comes on a Saturday, Mrs. Harvey said."
The parent was chuckling about it and said to me, "Doesn't that tell you how much your words affect my child?"
I told my daughter, "I was there when you were born."
My daughter looked right through me and said, "Maybe so, but Mrs. Harvey is my teacher."

What this journey might mean:
1. self knowledge
3. commitment to values
5. respect for self as human
7. sense of humor
9. healthy attitude
11. love of education
13. love of all beings
15. mature sense of leadership
17. relax
19. be the person you are
21. like the person you are
2. self control
4. commitment to value self
6. human joy of life
8. self assurance
10. sensitivity to others
12. willingness to try the challenges
14. belief and hope in children
16. self talk - truth
18. allow for mistakes and success
20. allow self recreation, retreat, pleasures
22. live by values you believe in

Getting Started:

Step One - check off the attributes which you already possess
Step Two - number the tasks which are to be accomplished
Step Three - grab onto a task and begin

Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand - Mother Teresa

In a very real way, taking on the role of teacher as model is taking personal responsibility for who you are, what you do, and how you feel. It is also a form of positive self management. And it is a positive way of building the self.

Social Learning Theory in the Classroom

  1. Models are important
  2. Teachers can be aware of the productive gains from incorporating models into instructional activities
  3. Teachers should plan demonstrations carefully because of modeling effect
    1. allow students to get close enough to "see that is happening"
    2. pace the modeling so that students stay involved
    3. give students an immediate opportunity to try the skills themselves
    4. share insights about behavior choices or options as they occur
    5. backward chaining before demonstrating will make the process more accessible to students - more user-friendly
    6. if steps are involved, allow practice of each step and review the steps together (again, backward chaining and task analysis will help provide this awareness)

  4. How each student is handled will deeply affect all students
  5. The process of learing through observation involves

    1. attention
    2. retention
    3. motor reproduction
    4. motivation

  6. Modeling can be used to transfer responsibility for learning from the teacher to the students - adapted from Bandura, 1977
Ten rules for self management:

(Things we know about the brain that will affect how we go about changing our internal message of self)
  1. The brain works using very specific electrochemical processes to collect, utilize, store and act on information it receives
  2. Information presented to the brain triggers a physiological as well as a psychological response
  3. Any message sent to the brain is linked to and affected by information which has previously been received and stored
  4. The subconscious part of the brain does not appear to weigh information for accuracy or consistency
  5. There are many compartmentalized bits of information in the brain, some of which do not appear to cross over and affect logically related information
  6. When faced with two sets of messages which are conflicting, the brain appears to act on the stronger message
  7. The strength of a message may be influenced by the number of repetitions as well as recency
  8. The referent source appears to affect the strength of the message, so messages from those we discount do not hold the same weight as messages from those we value
  9. Due to the referent source effect, it is crucial to validate self so that the weight of the positive and healing messages we send to ourselves internally are recorded and heeded
  10. The strength of a message is influenced by emotions which are paired with it when it occurs - adapted from Helmsted, 1987
Helping students:
Children seem to have an automatic copy machine when it comes to emulating parents and teachers. Many children come straight home from school and begin the afternoon by gathering friends or siblings together and playing school.

In order to get students to be good models, we need only work to provide that good model for them and make certain they know that they are important and valued. There is no question that what we do will contribute to what children will do.

Sometimes secondary educator question their effect on students and whether their modeling is as powerful. The referent of teacher is one of the sacrosanct positions for youngsters. Even when unable to talk to parents or feel closeness with other adults, students will turn to a coach, a band director, an English teacher for assistance with lifeās complexity if we as teachers have made it clear that we can be trusted and that we truly care.

Teacher Power

The power which is most useful in Teacher as Model is Referent power. It is crucial for teachers to develop the charisma which allows students to feel and say "I want to be like my teacher," or "Mr. Gonzales will care about this," or "I know I can trust her to tell me the truth."

Charisma is a genuine outpouring, a natural flow from who we are and what we are about. In order to project this power, to enjoy the electricity which comes from charisma, we must be in tune with ourselves, like ourselves, feel secure in the humility of accepting strengths and weaknesses, good judgment and error. Charisma seems to be strongest from people who are genuinely themselves to the point that they can be a pleasing reflection to others -- not so much of the "I", but of the "I-thou" of the shared relationship.

Fortunate, indeed, is the man who takes exactly the right measure of himself, and holds a just balance between what he can acquire and what he can use, be it great or be it small - Peter Latham

Who is wise? He who learns from all men.

- Talmud

here is little Effie's head
whose brains are made of gingerbread
when the judgment day comes
God will find six crumbs

stooping by the coffinlid
waiting for something to rise
as the other somethings did -
you imagine His surprise

bellowing through the general noise
Where is Effie who was dead?
- to God in a tiny voice,
i am may the first crumb siad

whereupon its fellow five
crumbs chuckled as if they were alive
and number two took up the song
might i'm called and did no wrong

cried the third crumb, i am should
and this is my little sister could
with our big brother who is would
don't punish us for we were good;

and the last crumb with some shame
whispered unto God, my name
is must and with the others i've
been Effie who isn't alive

        - e.e. cummings

Caring is the greatest thing, caring matters most

- Friedrich von Hugel (last words)

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E-mail J'Anne Ellsworth at Janne.Ellsworth@nau.edu

Course Created by J'Anne Ellsworth & Center for Technology Enhanced Learning

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