The Role of Teachers in Modeling Positive Behavior
The younger a student is, the more adaptable their thought processes and habits are in response to positive role models. A role model can be anyone that someone looks up to and wishes to be like – and that bond can develop at any age. However, it’s particularly crucial in early years.
Students might look up to their mother, father, step-parent, other caregiver, sibling or an extended family member. However, no matter what the structure of their families look like, teachers are likely to be the first role models that young students encounter regularly outside of the home.
This can be a tremendous responsibility for educators to take on. However, with young students in particular, the challenge can be broken down into a series of best practices that give anyone a good start. With time, mindfulness of the importance of the role model will do the rest.
How Role Modeling “Works”: A Basic Overview
Research has suggested that specific behaviors can be strengthened or weakened by the social cues picked up from others’ behavior. This occurs in a wide variety of contexts, no matter whether those being exposed to the behavior are receiving direct instruction or not.
Two major aspects make someone an effective role model:
The perceived importance or prestige of the model;
The perceived similarity between students and model.
Children can find themselves with many different role models. Some may even be fictional characters, cartoons or television presenters. However, teachers are especially important as role models, partially because they can adapt and intervene when undesirable behavior occurs.
One reason teachers are uniquely important is because of the capacity for ongoing reinforcement. When positive behavior is consistently reinforced, it is far more likely to be demonstrated in the future. Plus, reinforcing one student’s positive behavior can also encourage other students to do the same.
Models of Instruction
Implementing different styles of teaching can assist in modeling positive behavior to young students. Each of these models serves to help students identify their emotions and use them in a positive manner. From working in groups to having a positive interaction with someone, these theories help instill social skills necessary for a successful career.
The following teaching models serve to instill high self-esteem, independence, creativity, curiosity and positive self-direction in students of all ages.
Facilitative Teaching aims to help students establish meaning and come to an understanding of important ideas and processes by using their own emotions as indications. This theory sees the teacher as the facilitator of learning rather than regurgitating information from a textbook. To model positive behavior effectively using this theory, an educator must exude realness, acceptance, trust and empathy. By being aware of their feelings and communicating them successfully, a teacher will embody the behavior they wish to see from their students.
Metacognition Training helps increase personal awareness in students and allows them to gain a deeper understanding of how they think, feel and act. Overall, this will help them improve their learning and ability to cultivate meaningful relationships. When students gain an awareness of their own mental states, they can begin to control and monitor their own behavior. These skills lead to students becoming more self-reliant, flexible and productive. When students are having a difficult time finding the answer to a problem, they will be able to use their reflective strategies to weigh choices and evaluate options. As students become more thoughtful they will fine tune their decision-making skills and have more control over their emotions and reactions.
The following teaching models focus on developing the concepts and skills children need to work productively with their peers.
Cooperative Learning is a teaching strategy used to help students improve relations with their fellow classmates, improve their critical thinking skills, enhance social skills and raise their self-esteem. By putting students into small groups made up of different ability levels, and giving them different tasks to complete, they will have to work together, communicate and hold each other accountable to be successful. Cooperative learning encourages students to celebrate the successes of each member of their group as well. The students will learn to understand and like each other more and build their social skills for positive interactions in their future careers.
Role Playing in the classroom helps students to study and develop positive social behaviors and values. Educators can teach children how to act and react in certain situations by implementing this model of teaching. By setting a scene and having students play out how they would behave, students can reflect on what they felt was good and bad behavior. Have a discussion with the whole class to get every child active in the conversation and processing their own decisions. They will be able to test out different behaviors and experience the effects first-hand, without consequence. Getting the students to act it out before they are confronted with awkward or scary circumstances prepares them for the real thing and can help them think before they act.
Role Modeling Examples for the Classroom
Role modeling emerges in the classroom experience in a wide variety of ways:
Social and Emotional Skills
Enthusiasm and optimism are crucial traits to help children tap into their own energy – and, in due time, face more challenging situations with aplomb. Self-esteem can be developed through positive comments on students’ progress or creativity in almost any endeavor. Teachers can model coveted characteristics through acting with integrity and setting high expectations for their students. This will ultimately help facilitate the development of character and community. Remember that while modeling all of this behavior, direct and unaffected tone is important – children easily detect it when they are being talked down to.
Many different classroom projects and activities give the teacher an opportunity to be seen reading. As important as it can be to read aloud to children, it can also be helpful to let them “catch” their teachers enjoying reading in other contexts. When teachers don’t know the answer to a question, it’s often best to admit it and explore the topic together rather than ignore or avoid it.
Although teachers are needed to be role models that exemplify positive behavior, it is just as important to let children know that making a mistake is okay. When a teacher makes a bad choice or doesn’t know the answer, they should let the students know they made an error and communicate how to correct it. This will help convey to the students that everyone makes mistakes and to take responsibility for their actions, whether they are good or bad.
Being able to interpret information, analyze statements and come to conclusions are imperative skills to be learned by children. Teachers can help their students understand certain thought processes by using a thinking-out-loud approach. By using positive thinking and articulating the thought process needed to solve problems and analyze information, students are able to train their minds to think in similar ways. This will help them confidently work through problems and find solutions independently.
Confidence can be a difficult trait to instill in children because of the many factors that come into play. Teachers can help show their students to view themselves in a positive way by asking them about different aspects of their lives and sharing their own stories with a sense of optimism. Celebrating even the smallest accomplishments starts a conversation with the student that can help them think and talk about their own life with positivity.
Practical and Health Development
Before cooking and eating, and after using the bathroom, teachers should make sure children know they are washing their hands. Spills should be cleaned up carefully. Likewise, educators at all levels should make time to talk about the importance of many different kinds of healthy food and emphasize the value of physical activity.
As students grow, they’ll have many decisions to make to create a balanced lifestyle. With positive adult role models, they’ll be more likely to understand the full extent of their personal choice and agency in these issues. Every experience that they share alongside teachers can be one small step toward preparing them for a fulfilling and balanced life.