Teachers 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 children are born, they learn and grow through 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, 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.
4 Teacher Tips For Modeling in the Classroom:
1. Be honest about your own feelings!
Teachers have feelings, too! It is important for your students to see that each and every day.
When teachers communicate their own emotions to their students, they model appropriate coping mechanisms, normalize discussions about emotions, and help 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.
"I'm feeling frustrated, because I asked you to lower your volume, but it is still loud. How does it feel when you ask your friends to use a softer voice and they don't listen? How do you think we can solve this problem?"
2. 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.
When you make modeling conversations a normal practice, you may soon hear children share the thoughts and process behind their creations before you prompt them!
To see free examples of expert curated language that models appropriate conversations around emotions during lessons, check out the sample lesson on the ECL library.
3. 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!
Setting up a safe space in the classroom where students can go to practice self-regulation, and teaching children how to choose and use the tools in these spaces outside of a dysregulated moment can help children make better choices when they are in a dysregulated moment.
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