Larry Cuban once wrote, “How you teach becomes what you teach” and this is something that I have lived by for a number of years. I have it written above my desk and I often use this when discussing pedagogy with parents and teachers. Although teachers teach the formal curricula, it is the way that it is taught that truly teaches our children how to lead their lives.
Have you ever pretended to not hear a comment so that you would not have to deal with the conversation that would result from the inappropriate nature of the comment? By doing this, you have just taught your kids that the comment has your approval. For example, if a child is walking down the hall and states, “That is so gay…” and the child realizes that you heard him but you pretend not to hear and keep on walking, you have just told that child that it is acceptable to use that term. Children are very aware of what teachers and adults hear and how they respond (some boys seem to have those “spidey” senses). The small amount of time it takes to stop and have learning conversations with students can have large impacts on the way they develop character in school.
I was in one of the elementary school classrooms the other day and I was listening to students discuss why it was so important to be caring and compassionate toward each other. I was encouraged to become part of the discussion so I asked the students how they had learned to be this way; they responded by pointing to the teacher. I took this further to ask how it was taught to them and one student summed it up best when she said, “it’s not something she tells us it is just what she does”. How you teach becomes what you teach.
I also had a conversation with a different teacher around promoting active, healthy lifestyles with our kids. He discussed how this year has been so different because he has been able to model the healthy lifestyle. He spoke about how he has become so much healthier and physically fit this year and how he uses this to motivate his students. “If we want to promote this lifestyle, we have to do this with the kids and we have to BE this lifestyle”, he commented. How we teach becomes what we teach.
These 2 examples occurred in the school this week led me to these further reflections:
- If we want to teach the qualities of care and respect, we must demonstrate this to our children on a regular basis.
- If we want learning to be the key part of school, we cannot focus on grades and achievement. By focusing on the latter, we teach students that the result is greater than the process.
- We cannot teach democracy by running our class like a dictator. Encourage student voice.
- We cannot teach the importance of environmental awareness without DOING this in our class (recycle centre, natural light, conservation)
- We cannot teach kids to do the right thing by rewarding them for doing the right thing; the focus then becomes the reward, not the feeling that one gets while doing the right thing
- We do not teach a student that their strength or talent is important if we take this away from them as a punishment
As parents and teachers, we need to model the qualities that we want to see in our children. We teach our children more than just the curriculum. We have the opportunity to teach our students to become caring, compassionate, and collaborative people; the best way to do this is not through the formal curriculum but to have the lessons come from our actions. How we teach IS what we teach.