Humans are hard-wired to learn. All day, information is being absorbed through all our senses all the time, shaping each of us as we navigate our lives. Learning occurs everywhere. Life is learning.
As adults going through our lives, we are modeling behaviors and attitudes to those around us, whether we are conscious and deliberate about it, or not. Often what we do is more important than what we say. If we want to positively influence others, we need to be conscious of the way in which we conduct ourselves.
Young people learn how to respond to different life lessons through watching the people around them. In this way, all adults model how to treat others, how to apologise, how to be honest, how to ask for help, how to listen, how to do our best, how to deal with frustration, how to navigate conflict, how to show gratitude, how to take care of ourselves and how to learn and grow. Modeling is therefore an important tool for teachers and parents alike, which we should strive to use deliberately and authentically to help young people grow.
In the case of Character Education, modeling is crucial. Character Education is about shaping and positioning young people with the dispositions to thrive in the world. At TKS, we explore three areas of character: performance character – fulfilling potential; moral character – doing what is good and right; and contribution – active citizenship; and the dispositions associated with each. For Character Education to be valuable, it must authentically permeate all aspects of learning inside and outside of the classroom, from underpinning each academic lesson with the character dispositions helpful to maximise the learning, to designing learning experiences and reflection opportunities for individuals to recognize their own values and dispositions for grow. Character is an integral part of ongoing conversations with each individual as they journey through school and life more broadly. To avoid the mixed messages of ‘do as I say not as I do’, it must also be visible for young people to observe.
If we want our students to show integrity, then they need to observe it in us. If we want them to show courage to try new things we need to be open about discussing our own comfort zones. If we want them to know that mistakes are a normal and even necessary part of the learning process, then we need to be open to sharing our own learning process and mistakes with them.
Gone are the days where Teachers were seen as either oracles of wisdom or as slave drivers who lurked inside the school gates never to leave their ‘natural habitat’ to have lives of their own. Instead, Teachers at TKS strive to demonstrate that we, like our students, share the complexity of being human. We show them every day that we are learning too by trying things and making mistakes, showing resilience during times of struggle and challenge, sharing ups and downs, being open-minded, and reflecting on and projecting goals for continued growth. Modeling is part the TKS approach to Character Education, where Teachers as Mentors actively demonstrate and discuss their own ongoing growth to promote authentic connection with the students. From this basis of connection, our Mentors support student reflection by steadying the mirror and provoking students to see more clearly their own strengths and opportunities for growth. Modeling and mentoring significantly contribute to our school being a great community in which to learn.
By Melodie Matheson
Melodie Matheson is the Project Manager for Character, Lead Mentor for Year 9 and a Humanities and Senior History Teacher at The Knox School in Wantirna South. She has worked to develop and implement Skills Based Courses for the past five years. As Project Manager for Character, she workshops professional development with staff and implements initiatives to explicitly underpin all learning with 6Cs and dispositional learning. Melodie is passionate about an education which builds the whole person and develops agency in each learner.