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Who Is a Role Model?
by Will Hobart


The winter chills were finally beginning to settle into Philly as January came to a close. After a relaxing, but short, holiday break spent with my family and girlfriend, I came back to class re-energized.

Over break I was reminded of how my father instilled a sense of civic duty in my life and how his presence and expectations shaped the young man I have become. It seems typical that a childs parents would carry the most weight when it comes to being a role model. I consider this a lot when children curse me out or throw pencils or calculators in my direction. Where are these childrens parents? Where are these childrens role models? As a teacher it is easy to jump to the conclusion that children who behave inappropriately do not have good role models outside of school. Because of one student I have recently started thinking the opposite. What can I do as a teacher in school to be a better role model for this young boy?

James is the most frustrating type of student for a teacher. He is two grade levels above in reading and on grade level in math. He stands alone with this academic ability in a class of 33 teenagers. In addition to his academic potential, James comes prepackaged with a heavy side of immaturity. His behavior is downright awful. James constantly runs in class, talks out of turn, curses me out, and completes few if any daily assignments. Since last October there have been a series of disciplinary meetings with his regular education teachers, behavioral specialists, and mother. At every meeting I sat across from his mother and watched her eyes fill with tears of frustration, anger, and sadness as the team reported James was making no progress. I dont know what to do with him anymore. He just wont grow up."

In the past two weeks several incidents have occurred that have changed the way I think about James. First, we had our first physical confrontation. James shoved me against a classroom door in his aggressive and hurried exit from math class. He was suspended for a day and I was encouraged to press charges. I declined. Needless to say after this final incident, the team decided after the meeting the following week, James will have to find another school to attend.

While my time with James is now down to single-digit days of school, I can only be a little pleased. Despite his daily disrespect in his words and actions since October, he has also shown his respect for me in subtle and heart-wrenching moments. He busts into my classroom now, not wanting to interrupt, but to sit in the back and listen to my lessons. He sits quietly, his head down, but his eyes focused on my every move and his ears open to my ever word. He even raises his hand to offer a correct answer or two. It is in these moments I have started to realize I only have a few days left to impact this young mans life.

With the recent passing of a close family friend who was a definite male role model in my life, I was reminded of how through every interaction an adult can influence a young child. Some of my most distinctive childhood memories include the family friend and I know his presence in my life changed me for the better. This man was not my father, or my parent, or my guardian. He was just someone who made himself available and his good spirit consistent and trusting.

My profession as a teacher has landed me this role in the lives of hundreds of children I see every day at Sulzberger. It is only now that I am an adult myself and after my neighbors early passing that I have realized the power adults can have over developing young minds. The influence they can have and the knowledge they can instill. And so now, with a few days remaining, I ask myself again, what can I do to be a role model for James? What can my time with him now bring to him in the future?

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Article by Will Hobart
Education World®
Copyright &copy 2007 Education World

Posted 02/21/2007