As a father of four children, I find myself in paradoxical situations. I want them to know the ill effects of drinking soda. I crack open a Diet Pepsi, my youngest says, “Dad, why do YOU drink so much soda? You know YOU can get cavities too.” Oh sweet child, do as I say, not as I do.
I want them to value organization. I yank a wrinkled shirt from the bottom of the laundry basket, socks and softener sheets cascading out onto the floor, my oldest comments, “You’re not wearing THAT shirt to school, are you? So, like, why don’t YOU have to put your laundry away? That’s not fair….” Oh, I love you teenage daughter, do as I say, not as I do.
This theory, “do as I say, not as I do”, is an ineffective parenting strategy, isn’t it? My children learn more about hygiene and organization by observing how Desiree and I live. They learn more about relationships – intimate, social, and collegial – by watching Desiree and I interact with each other, friends, and colleagues.
Similarly, this theory doesn’t work in education. Perhaps the more appropriate theory to embrace is, “actions speak louder than words.”
As a professional educator, I find myself in situations incongruent with this theory. During professional development, whether delivered by administrators or the world’s revolutionary educators, we are taught to use best practice in our classrooms, yet the method of professional development is in direct contrast to best practice. We are a profession of collaboration, yet so many of us shut our classroom doors as the school day begins, isolating ourselves, protecting ourselves.
Teaching is challenging, important work. We want our students to succeed, we want them to become the best version of themselves. For this to happen, we must take action and not just deliver words.
If we want students to make eye contact as they discuss Juliet’s forbidden love for Romeo, then we must show them exactly what this looks like. With the class observing, sit down, across from a student, and show how this discussion looks.
If we want students to annotate their questions and connections while reading a nonfiction article on ecosystems, we must use our document camera to project a similar article that we read aloud, think aloud, and annotate.
We all know what best practice looks like in education. And, yes, actions DO speak louder than words.
This week, let’s avoid the temptation to just tell our students what to do. Instead, let’s model how to learn; what students perceive as important to us, they will emulate. With modeling and guided practice, students will gain skills to widen their understanding, engage in collaboration, and manage their own learning.
Rather than soda, I will drink more water this week. I will take the time to hang my shirts in the closet and place my socks in the drawer this week. Consequently, I am most certain, this latter goal will bolster my relationship with Desiree this week.