I won't lie. I knew from the moment I came out of the womb I would never be a model (don't argue; yes, I knew myself). I was short, with chubby cheeks and a button nose. Not the makings of a young Gisele Bundchen, Naomi Campbell, or Cindy Crawford, that's for sure. No, I was destined to be called, if anything, "cute". I bet Gisele has never been told she was "cute". But I suppose I am digressing from my intended topic. That is, to say, I didn't intend to talk about supermodels. I am referring to the type of modeling I can only wish that Kirby had received as a young pup.
We got Kirby as a 6 1/2 week old puppy from Nogales, Mexico. Our intent was to foster him until he could get neutered (typically that rousing adventure can occur at 4 months of age), then we would begin looking for his forever family in earnest. Something happened along the way, evidently, that prevented that course of events---that something was bonding. Kirby wormed his way into the hearts of our entire family, namely our oldest Lab, L.N., who (having never had pups of her own) took Kirby under her wing (literally, at times) and taught him how to be an Arneson dog. Fast forward 2 1/2 years. As most of you know, Kirby's forever home is with us and L.N.'s "forever home" is now to sit at the feet of Jesus (and snore for him, I believe---unless maybe dogs quit snoring when they get to Heaven because God can't stand the sound). My point about Kirby is that he was around solely girl dogs from 6 1/2 weeks of age. He never had a male dog role model to teach him how to urinate. Therefore, as much as I hounded Dave to try to teach him (Dave quizzes me on how he was supposed to teach this particular skill), Kirby pees like a girl dog, which is unfortunate because it means he frequently urinates on the backs of his front legs. A few weeks ago, I asked him if he minded having urine on the backs of his front legs, and while he didn't answer me outloud, he began doing something different (read: odd) when we go for a walk. He now, upon seeing a low-to-the-ground bush, climbs on top of said bush and goes to the bathroom while straddling it. Weirdo. Poor dear, he simply never had good modeling, I suppose.
Finally, I arrive at the true point of my post. I have been wrestling with the idea of modeling for quite a while. I teach graduate level courses in Educational Leadership at Grand Canyon University. In courses on school leadership, I try my best to model for my students what I believe good school leaders should do. In fact, I spend way too much time, quite likely, writing notes to my students about the papers they submit each week and on their weekly discussion posts online. But I actually had a student who said to me that she was taken aback because she had never had a professor write comments ("track changes") on her papers before and she was just used to getting a grade and a "Good job" on her papers. Wait, what? Did she seriously just say my specific feedback was overwhelming because she wasn't used to it? My question for the entire class then became, "How might we, as school leaders, model for teachers what we know are effective teaching practices in the classroom?" Here are some of the ways I believe we can do just that:
*Give specific and timely feedback to teachers (whether they are in a graduate level class or not) about their performance---this necessitates watching the practices of the teacher then making the time to give the feedback in a way in which it will be received
*Expect the same behavior from teachers as we expect teachers to expect from their own students---if I am teaching 10 participants or 800 participants, I have some expectations that those participants are going to be respectful to one another. What does that look like? Not talking while another person is talking, because you simply are not going to convince me (ever) that everyone gets a fair shake at hearing the speaker if others are having sidebar conversations. Plus....ummmm....it's just plain rude. I may or may not have wanted to say, "Did you not get taught any differently when you were young?" but, instead, I try to reframe the question in a more palatable manner. If I, as a teacher, witnessed my fellow educators being disrespectful during a presentation done by God Himself or done by a peer teacher, I would be mortified but I would also non-verbally or quietly let the offender know, "Hey, we are trying to listen." By the way, to the people who talked and opened candy wrappers the entire production of Les Miserables yesterday (Did I say "entire"? Do you know how long that show is??), we tried desperately to respectfully get your attention, to no avail.
*Talk about the purpose for the modeling---if I am modeling a behavior that is considered good practice for teachers in their own classroom, I will talk about the "what", "why" and "how" of what I am doing. I use chimes to bring audience conversation to a close. I often get told, "I love those chimes. That is such a cute idea." The same thing happens when I use colorboards (sort of the cheap girl's whiteboards with the added bonus of using four different colors). I make sure to tell people, "I don't use chimes or colorboards because they are 'cute'. I use them because they are effective tools. The purpose for the colors of colorboards is to also use them as a tool for grouping, as well." You may think some new idea is clever, but the reason I use whatever strategy, tool, or technique I use is because it has been proven to me to be effective.
Modeling what we expect is one of the most effective aspects of our work in education (or any other field, for that matter) we can use. Modeling allows for the ability to watch something being done and virtually try it on for size.
How do you use modeling in your own work? I'd love to hear some ideas!
In the meantime, I am going to try to recruit some boy dogs in the neighborhood to come model for Kirby.