Take a moment and think of the last time someone taught you something. Anything. Maybe it was the Downward Dog pose by your yoga instructor. Now ask yourself if that teacher was able to model what they were teaching you. Your answer is most likely yes. Now think about anytime you were taught something your teacher couldn’t perform. How would you view that person? Would you continue paying for yoga lessons if your instructor couldn’t properly perform the poses they were teaching? No, because you wouldn’t buy into the sabotaged message they were trying to sell you. You would probably question why that person is in that profession to start with.
As educators, it is our responsibility to model what we teach or else we are going to lose all credibility with our students. We have the ability to be the biggest influence in our students’ lives, and we can only do that by being the example.
We cannot effectively connect student learning with our instruction if we are unable to model our message. We won’t be a role model for our students. They will see us as ‘all talk, no walk.’ Having the knowledge and capability to teach content is expected, but more importantly, being a role model for what we teach is a necessity.
To complete my teaching program in physical education, I was required to juggle continuously for 30 seconds and ride a unicycle half the length of a basketball court, two skills I had no prior experience of. My professor justified this requirement by simply saying, “You shouldn’t teach something you can’t perform.”
I still think about the intended meaning of that statement today. Being a physical education teacher for 10 plus years now, I can confidently teach juggling and unicyclying to my students without modeling those skills. But I wouldn’t consider myself a role model to my students in doing so. That little voice in my head would always be asking me, “Are my students really buying into what I am teaching if I can’t do it myself?” I am sure you have asked yourself this question at one point in your teaching career. To make a lasting impact with every student, we as educators need to ask ourselves if we really ‘walk the walk’ and live through the message we teach.
One of the biggest obstacles my students face in my physical education classes are fitness assessments. My students fear these assessments, partly because they don’t have the confidence they will meet their grade level standard when performing them. Sometimes, this anxiety leads to my students forming a rebellion against me and my teaching. All educators need to be prepared for this scenario. There will be a time where students question the purpose of our teaching.
At times, our teaching will create doubt in the classroom. This uncertainty our students express will often lead to them questioning our message. “Can you do this?” My students ask me this question time and time again throughout the school year. I am susceptible to this question frankly because my students are required to apply my teaching through their own physical performance. I understand if I cannot perform the proper form of a push-up, or demonstrate that I can do enough push-up repetitions to meet standard for my age and gender, I am only damaging my reputation and standing with my students. If we as educators do not backup our teaching through performance, there is a great chance we will lose all credibility with our students.
Students giving up in the classroom is a commonly shared experience among all educators. It’s going to happen. Some students don’t bother to put forth their effort in the classroom because they lack confidence that they can be successful, or they are not motivated to put in the work. Often times, these adversities our students encounter can be upended simply by us being the example of our teaching.
Only 4% of students in my school district met all six fitness standards at the high school level last year. Yuck! The criteria of these assessments didn’t dictate this low number. It was the lack of confidence and motivation our students had experienced in prior years.
It is likely these students didn’t have a role model that positively impacted their health and fitness habits as an adolescent. Influencing students is the chip on my shoulder I bring to my classroom every day. I may be the only person that can flip their switch and give them the confidence and motivation needed to be successful. I can only do that if I avoid hypocrisy and build up credibility through my daily actions.
You may be the only person that will make an impact with what you teach. So ask yourself, “am I prepared to make that impact?”
Getting the most out of students should be every educator’s goal. We want students to leave our classroom with the necessary tools to apply what we teach in their everyday life. That task is near impossible if we don’t ‘walk that walk’ and live the message we teach.