Friday, May 30, 2014

Teachers are (or should be) role models

I'm my own worst critic. OK, I don't know that that's true, but I know I'm constantly critiquing myself. I'm often genuinely surprised when people find what I do valuable or inspiring or helpful.

There are many reasons for my potentially overly self-critical disposition. Perhaps one of the strongest reasons is the sense of responsibility I have in the knowledge that, life it or not, I am a role model. Teachers are role models.

Teaching reveals this. Having children of one's own makes it even more clear. My actions and my words, planned or spontaneous, kind or cruel, set the tone for classes, weeks, even terms. The way I live is part of my teaching, whether my students or my children. It's more true than people realize that actions speak louder than words.

I'm aware that what I eat sends messages. I know that how and where I spend my "free time" sends messages. I realize that what I post on online is not innocuous.  I'm aware that how I interact with others, in reality and in virtual reality, sends messages. I know that how I spend my money matters. I realize that what I indulge and do not indulge is not simply a "personal decision" without social effect.

I also know how severely I fail to meet my own expectations. I'm am probably more aware of my folly and failures than I am of my successes. With my children even more than my students. Sometimes it seems that every loss of temper and every poor example is indelibly engraved in my memory. That's obvious hyperbole, but it's more true than than saying I recall my successes.

I don't always cope with this pressure well. I'm too hard on myself, I always have been, which arguably leads to more errors in judgement. Nevertheless, I press on knowing that I set out to change lives, and change lives I will. I step forward in faith that students will somehow acquire what is important and will graciously ignore or forget my mistakes. We live not for ourselves.

Are many of you like this? Are you aware of the importance of the examples you set? How do you maintain perspective?

Follow me on Twitter @MatthewTShowman

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