Many teachers are role models for students. Whether or not we are conscious of this role, our students are learning by observing us. If we are teachers who openly identify with a marginalized social group, then we have the potential for positive influence on students who share our identity and who may face additional challenges due to their social conditions (see Kevin). Becoming aware of our impact on students is a precondition to being responsible role models.

It can be reassuring to remember that we are not modeling some unachievable level of perfection. When an adult in a position of authority acknowledges that they have made a mistake and is willing to talk about it, it sends a potent message to youth about the responsible use of power.

Teachers have a special responsibility to model the kinds of equitable and inclusive values we want to see reflected in our society at large. As ambassadors of Canadian civics, teachers model:

  • caring and passion about equity issues;
  • motivation and effort: trying to make things better and to be a better person;
  • questioning oneself;
  • admitting to and learning from one’s errors;
  • humility;
  • apologizing when we have offended or hurt someone.

Teaching by example, rather than lecturing or preaching, is the best way to communicate some life lessons. We can be prepared to mine learning moments constructively for the opportunities they represent by transparently sharing our thoughts, choices, motivations and intentions (see Elizabeth).