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The Importance of Being a Role Model

Carolanne Tremblay ,

Boots

My mother always told me that the important thing in life is to “practice what you preach”, meaning that if you expect something from others, you should also live up to those expectations.

When I decided to become a teacher, I knew that I would always have to act as a role model for my students. I’ve changed my vocation since then, but during my career I always made sure to be a good example to my students.

I think that all new teachers must question and position themselves and think about their actions in the classroom. Indeed! We must be aware of our students’ watchful gaze. We can’t expect them to behave in ways that we don’t. Young people notice when our actions don’t reflect our words.

I’ll tell you part of my story to explain my point of view on the importance of being a role model.

During my career, I taught and coordinated a special program called Responsible Citizenship. My role was to teach my students, throughout their teenage years, how to become involved citizens. Over the course of five years, I worked with them through project-based learning on five key values: respect for ecology, pacifism, solidarity, respect for human rights and involvement.

My goal was to create a movement for change within our society by giving my students the opportunity to get involved in their own way in projects that interested them and allowed them to make a difference.

But how could I convince teenagers to invest their time and energy in these projects, to miss some weekend activities, to spend their entire lunch hour planning events with me, to act within the school to leave a mark, etc.? The answer was simple. By dedicating as much time to the projects as they did. By giving my time, being involved in various committees and investing my energy just as much as I expected them to. In short, I gave them an example; I served as a role model.

My actions taught them the values that I wanted to share with them, and I was able to–or at least I hope I did–initiate a change in them. I managed to plant the seeds of involvement in several of my former students, and I’m proud of it. I run into them from time to time and find them striking. They have become adults, or almost, they are involved in the causes they care about, they give their time, they are assertive and confident, and, most importantly, they know how to challenge information and be critical thinkers when it comes to media sources.

I can’t take credit for all of it. We worked as a team to support the students. But all the members of that team had something in common: we wanted to be role models. I don’t think that a teacher should be perfect or faultless. Quite the opposite. However, I do believe that when teaching it’s crucial to practice what you preach to have a real impact on students.

“Before asking someone to behave in a certain way, ensure that you have the elegance and coherence of being the example that they will model themselves upon.” Romain Guilleaumes

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