After parents, members of the school community are probably the most significant role models for children, mainly because they spend the most time with them and children learn by imitation. How well these adults function has a profound affect on the future of our children and ultimately the future of our country.
It is important for schools to remember that they are a community of people whose goal is to help students to become life-long learners and responsible adults capable of functioning in a democracy. Everybody plays a part. If the bus driver is rude to children and uses inappropriate language in speaking to them, then children learn this is the way adults talk. If children are rushed through lunch, not given choices and expected to be completely quiet, then they learn that their opinions and needs are not important. If the secretary does not have time to listen to children’s problems, then the children learn that their problems are not important to the functioning of the school. Opportunities for positive learning experiences are lost in these ways. Sometimes we forget that children come in contact with many adults in a school system, not only the teacher. All of these adults are important in children’s lives and have the potential for a positive influence on them.
School systems need to spend time, effort and money on the selection and training of all the staff not just the administrative and teaching staff. It is important that schools be concerned about the whole community of workers. It is just as important to have competent, caring aides, bus drivers, janitors, lunch room staff, office staff, crossing guards as it is to have competent, caring administrators and teachers. The non-instructional members of the school community should be as well trained and as well paid as other staff members. This is important because children are reflecting this group’s behavior as well as the other adults around them. This group’s unique contact with children has a great potential for many positive learning experiences.
Teachers, also have many opportunities for demonstrating positive behavior, not only in how they interact with individual children, but in how they respond to each other. Children can sense whether the school is a happy place to be, or whether it is rigid and the staff uncooperative and negative. Adults who are unhappy and unappreciated cannot model cooperative behavior. It helps if teachers are given opportunities to work together, not only to plan group activities with their classes, but also among themselves to share ideas and concerns. Teachers, as well as, children, need to feel that their concerns and ideas are important and are given careful consideration. They need to be a part of the decision making process in the school.
I encourage the entire school community to take seriously its responsibility in being positive role models for children. Children look up to and imitate adults, it is up to us not to disappoint them but to be models of the cooperative behaviors which will help them to become happy, productive and responsible adults.