Teachers, you are incredible. You consistently go above and beyond in providing quality education for your students. Each day you take on the role of caregiver, advocate, cheerleader, guidance counselor, and mediator rolled into one... and now you do all of this while trying to keep yourself and those around you safe. And it doesn’t stop there-- in addition to everything you already do, you also play a critical role as the socializer of the children under your tutelage and care.
What does being a socializer mean?
At Housman Institute, Dr. Housman emphasizes that from the moment they are born, children learn and grow within the context of relationships. Children learn through imitation and observation, our modeling and guidance and how we respond to them. They are always taking in new information by observing those around them, learning from the behaviors and speech of the adults and peers in their lives, and as they get older, asking questions and forming their own opinions and judgements. As a teacher, you play an important role and have the incredible opportunity to be a foundational part of children developing their sense of self.
Whether this is your first or 25th year of teaching, expert or novice, you bring so much to the table just by being you. Here are a few tips that can support you in modeling appropriate and constructive language, emotional responses, and behaviors for your students. Your unique perspective and experiences in tandem with these tips can have an incredible impact on the children in your classroom.
Teacher Tips For Modeling in the Classroom:
Be honest about your own feelings throughout the day. Teachers have feelings too! It is important for your students to see that each and every day. Through the evidence-based begin to ECSEL program, teachers are encouraged to communicate their own emotions to their students. In doing so, you are modeling appropriate coping mechanisms, normalizing discussions about emotions, and helping your students feel more secure in expressing and understanding their own emotionality moving forward. The next time you feel frustrated because no one is listening, try sharing your feelings with the class. Ask them how it feels when they do not feel heard, and ask them to be part of solving the problem and finding a solution. Showing your students how you express your feelings constructively (i.e., channeling actions into words) will help to scaffold appropriate expression of their own feelings.
Be intentional with your responses. With so much on your plate, it can be tempting to respond with a simple “great job!” when a student shares their work or answers a question. However, taking a few extra moments to engage and be intentional with your responses can have a tremendous impact on the children in your class, both with their security in participating and in their self-confidence, no matter their age. Asking follow-up questions or making comments like, “tell me more about what you created,” or “how did you feel when that happened?” will not only show your students that you are invested in them, but also models appropriate conversations about emotions, and the importance of checking in with those emotions throughout the day.
Encourage independence and autonomy through choices. Using language around making choices throughout the day is a great way to promote and encourage children’s growing autonomy. Being able to make independent choices can give the children in your class a sense of control and agency, something that may not always be consistent in their lives. By modeling choice-making, narrating the emotions that arise from it, and allowing opportunities for your students to make their own choices, you are setting the stage for growth in their self-confidence and independence. Seeing how you feel and respond when making a choice can reinforce your students’ positive feelings around choice-making. Providing the context for students to make their own choices within the structure of the school day creates a safe environment for children to be independent. Offering a choice during an emotional moment can even help with self-regulation!
Be mindful, and take breaks. This year has presented more than its fair share of stressors and anxiety. Amidst a global pandemic, civil and racial injustices and unrest, and growing environmental concerns, it can be challenging to see caring for yourself as a priority. Taking moments for yourself throughout the day is a priority, and modeling mindfulness at school will show your students that it is okay to take a break and rest when they feel overwhelmed. Starting the day by taking deep breaths as a class, allowing time for a stretch break, or even taking a pause to close your eyes for a few minutes are all ways to encourage mindfulness and tuning in to the present moment.
These four modeling tips can serve as a reinforcement for what you may already be doing or working on, and a reminder that teachers have an unparalleled power and opportunity to positively impact the learners in their lives. Teachers, you are incredible.
Keeping Your Students’ and Your Mental Health Strong in Stressful Times
“As educators — before you can help children deal with their stress you must learn how to cope with your own stress and the feelings that accompany stress.” - Dr. Donna Housman