Our duty as role models

As I briefly mentioned in my previous post, I have recently come across a bit of nastiness on social media. This is commonplace on the internet, unfortunately, but I wouldn’t expect it from teachers! (To be clear, I’m not talking about anyone from Hong Kong or anyone who I know personally). This made me think about our duty as role models. These people may well be outstanding teachers. They might even be the best in their field for delivering content, but I would not want them to teach my children. Here’s why:

“Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.”

W.E.B. Dubois

I recently found this quote online and it struck a chord with me. To what extent do you agree with it? Whether you take it literally or not, students spend an awful lot of time with us! We hold a huge responsibility as dominant adults in their lives. We are role models with influence, and we must remember this. It is particularly important for students who do not have stable family lives.

I recently came across this fantastic teaching blog and absolutely loved the name of it: Making Good Humans. Ultimately, this is our aim. It is also the parents’ aim, I assume. How do we make good humans? We can start by modelling what good humans are and what they do. Students will subconsciously learn from our behaviours and emulate them.

“Never forget that the kids watch you constantly. They model themselves after you, and you have to be the person you want them to be.”


I have tried to consider different ways that we can make a conscious effort to be positive role models. Here are some suggestions:

1. Lifelong learner: A new language, art class, sport, anything! Whatever you are learning, share your enthusiasm, achievements and challenges with your students. Show them that you love learning, and that they should too.

2. Positivity: Smile, show manners, greet people by name, be friendly, etc. Importantly, be like this to everyone! Show the same respect to all students/adults as you would the principal.

3. Take action: Pick up litter, recycle, turn off the lights when you leave, etc. There’s no need to discuss it or make a teaching point out of it. Just let the students see their teacher doing the right thing, just because it’s the right thing.

4. Digital citizenship: Like everything else in this post, we should teach digital citizenship explicitly. However, students will learn by example. The internet is a wonderful thing, but it can bring out the worst in some people. Students need to see their teachers using it positively and responsibly.

5. Mistakes: These make you seem more human! Don’t try to cover them up. We should be instilling classroom cultures that celebrate mistakes as part of the learning process (see this older post). When we shy away from them, our students will too.

If your mistakes result in the wrongdoing of students, apologise sincerely.

6. Talk about your life outside work: Talk about your family, hobbies, etc. Show the students that you value more than what they see. Talk about their lives too, and show that you are interested in them as a ‘whole child’. Ask them about their football tournament, piano exam, etc. and show genuine interest.

7. Tackle problems positively: We all face problems. Show that you can overcome them with a positive attitude without becoming frustrated or angry. Think aloud as you persevere and solve them.

8. Read: Show students that reading is for pleasure, not homework. Talk about what you read, make recommendations, and share why you love it.

9. Learner Profile/Attitudes: As an IB teacher, I want the students to demonstrate the attributes of the learner profile and the PYP attitudes. Reflect on how well you demonstrate them. Which ones are your strengths? Which ones are you weaknesses? Be transparent with your students and make a teaching point out of your feelings and decisions.

“I’m nervous about this but I will be a risk-taker…”

“I should have been more open-minded towards that idea…”

10. Laugh at yourself and with others: Teach students the difference between laughing with others and laughing at others. Start with yourself. When something goes wrong, or when you embarrass yourself, laugh it off and share the laughter with them! However, explicitly teach that laughing at someone is very different and can be hurtful. Thus, never laugh at your students.

What have I missed? Please feel free to add other suggestions in the comments below.

Students pick up on subtle behaviours from their teachers, more than we realise. Remember that next time you complain, roll your eyes, laugh at someone, etc. We are on display and, according to W.E.B. Dubois, students are constantly learning from us . As a rule of thumb, don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want your students to do.

If these things are too much to ask of teachers, then how can we expect our students to live up to them? Being a role model might seem like a daunting task. Really, it just comes down to being a good human. What’s difficult about that?


  1. Great post Adam. Additionally Would love to hear a review, or your thoughts of ‘Learn Like a PIRATE’ as I purchased it recently as part of my summer reading.
    All the best

    1. Hi Claire,

      Thanks for the comment! From what I have read so far, it seems like an amazing book that deserves my full attention. It’s potentially a game-changer! My PYP Book Study group is currently reading something else, so my attention is on that right now. However, I’ll definitely get back to it during the summer break and I’ll write about it when I do. I’m hoping that the book group might choose it for their next study.

      Thanks again,


  2. Recently read a post about soliciting feedback about yourself as a teacher from the students.. a bit like the 360 degree feedback system. Would be valuable for anyone who is open minded and is looking for growth opportunities.

  3. Let students take the lead – don’t be a control freak in the classroom! Share the teaching space with them – it’s not your classroom anymore!

    1. I totally agree! Great suggestion! I’m currently reading ‘Learn like a PIRATE’ by Paul Solaz. Highly recommended for developing a student-led classroom. Thanks for the comment and for your positive feedback on Twitter! I assume you’re the same Adrianna!



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