We are teachers. We are the difference makers.
We know that our students learn by doing. With that knowledge, we give them tangible experiences to learn actively and become engaged. Our students look up to us, literally and figuratively. Because of this, it is crucial that we show our students that we ourselves, are learners as well. We can do this by sharing with our students what we are interested in, what we are spending time exploring and what we are actively learning more about. We can share about the books we are reading, what we wrote in our journal the night before, or the museum we visited over the weekend. When we share with our students in this way they see us as learners. They see that reading, writing, learning and exploring are a part of our daily lives, too. They come to understand that as their teacher, we aren't expecting them to do something that we as their teacher don't. As their teacher we have the same expectations for ourselves.
This also applies to modeling kind behavior for our students. 'Walking the walk,' extends far beyond academics. We read a book to our students and discuss how the character is kind and what that means. We must take it farther; we must be empathetic in our modeling. We must take these teachable moments and embrace them. When there is a moment in the school day when a student demonstrates empathy or kindness to another student, we must highlight it, and bring it to our students' attention. Using it as a teachable moment: "I'm noticing Jen just held the door for Tim. That was so kind of her." Acknowledging and recognizing these moments calls them to your students' attention and encourages them to want to behave in this same way. Your students will only come to be cognizant of their kind actions if they know you are as well. This validates their behavior and encourages them to always lead with kindness. The same applies to empathy and compassion.
When these moments are brought to the forefront, brought to your students' attention, then your students know that it is the expectation, that it is the norm. It becomes more than just "something you do" it becomes, "the way you live." Thus, teaching your students by living it is key in two areas: First, teaching your students to be learners, knowledge seekers, requires that first, you are. Second, in order to ensure that your students are socially aware -- kind, compassionate and empathetic -- you must be the model of each of these and share when they model each. When you model these you are reinforcing the behaviors for your students and of your students.
It is not enough to teach something, we must also live it. If our students learn through our actions, then we must actively show that we are learners and that we ourselves are kind, empathetic and compassionate. We teach it by living it.