This post was originally contributed to Cathy Rubin’s blog, The Global Search for Education, on the Huffington Post.
They are watching.
Every moment students spend in our rooms, amid the business of the day, the paper pushing and content coverage, amid the set-up and tear-down of projects, they hear everything we say. About ourselves. About the world. About them. They watch how we handle ourselves when we are pressed for time and when we receive gifts and when we screw things up.
So yes, deliver your curriculum. Yes, provide rich, hands-on, authentic learning experiences. Offer rigorous academic challenges. Raise the bar. Coach and guide. Nurture. Push. Advise.
But also be: To truly lead is to pay attention to who we are in the downtime, in the margins. To help them become the best people they are capable of becoming, we must first be those people.
We can do it in these ways:
1. Lead with imperfection.
Try things you’re not good at, right in front of them. Demonstrate a spirit of experimentation. Speak of your mistakes without judgment.
2. Lead with assertiveness.
Show them how a self-assured person says no. Show what it looks like to set firm limits, without apology and without hostility.
3. Lead with relationships.
Let them hear you laugh with other teachers, prioritize loved ones, and speak respectfully of your significant other. Let them see what healthy relationships look like.
4. Lead with language.
Use the right words to describe concepts. Avoid dumbing things down. Savor a good word when it presents itself.
5. Lead with self-control.
When a student makes you angry, think of how you tell students to handle their own anger. Then do that.
6. Lead with manners.
Say please and thank you. Avoid cutting people off mid-sentence. Have sensitive conversations in private. Respect other people’s time.
7. Lead with quality.
Take a few extra minutes to get something right. Do what you say you’re going to do. Proofread.
8. Lead with humor.
Laugh. Be silly. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Avoid mocking or ridiculing your students. Mock yourself instead.
9. Lead with enthusiasm.
Share your obsessions. Geek out on the things students think are uncool. Show them that it’s possible to fall in love with a forest, a perfect pizza crust, the moment when a song changes key.
10. Lead with humility.
When you don’t know something, say so. Allow for the possibility that you might occasionally be wrong. Check your ego. Apologize.
To stand before children—share physical space with them day after day—is a rare privilege. In every minute we spend together, they will learn something. Whatever it is we put before them, they will learn from it.
Let’s make it good. ♥