An Excerpt from “They Call Me Mom” by Pete Springer
I put a lot of responsibility on myself to be a role model for my students. I remember when former basketball great and current commentator, Charles Barkley, once said, “I don’t believe professional athletes should be role models. I believe that parents should be role models.” I think that what Mr. Barkley was saying was that athletes should not be role models for kids just because they happen to be good at some particular athletic skill.
While I agree with this sentiment, I also know that sometimes some of our students did not have good role models to emulate in their families. I taught many kids who needed a positive male influence in their lives. I felt that a significant part of my job as a teacher went far beyond what a child learned in the core academic material or the grade level standards. The most important lessons I wanted my students to learn were often not found in textbooks—things like hard work, achieving your dreams, respecting others’ differences, learning to work with a partner or team, and learning from your mistakes. These were all qualities I hoped that I could pass on to my students.
The times when I was hardest on myself were the moments I felt that I had let my students down in one of those areas. I welcomed and appreciated the opportunity to be a role model for my students. Most of the time I think I did an excellent job of that, but part of being a human being is realizing that we aren’t perfect. If I believed I had messed up in some way toward my class or an individual, I knew the correct thing to do was to offer a sincere apology to that person or group. Kids are learning from us all the time, and how we react when we make a mistake teaches them to admit fault and accept responsibility for their actions.
Teachers should embrace this immense responsibility. I considered it a blessing, and not a curse, to have been given this opportunity to inspire my students. Sure, plenty of professions pay more. Yes, some jobs don’t have so much constant change and instability, but how many people go to work day after day and say they were given this fantastic opportunity to be a role model and honestly make a difference in their community? Getting hugs every day from your students doesn’t hurt either.