Be the Change You Wish to See

Cindy Shapiro
5 min readSep 20, 2023

The behavior you model has power in the classroom, at home, and the wider world

Photo by Taylor Flowe on Unsplash

I’ll be honest — these days, I am more nervous than ever to drive. It’s not because I doubt my ability to drive — I may not be the best driver, but I’m a cautious driver, and I try to be considerate of others.

What worries me is this: the example that adults are modeling for the younger generation is largely terrible. We are showing younger people how to be inattentive, self-absorbed, and flippant about the effect we have on each other. Is that what we wish for our kids?

Try this experiment the next time you’re stopped at a light: look left, look right, look behind you. How many of those drivers are actively looking at a cellphone? I’ll bet you the number is at least two. What’s even scarier: I’ve started to notice the number of drivers who, while the car is moving, are looking down at their phones. And then, the cherry on top: they’ve got kids in the backseat.

Those kids, whether they know it or not, are highly likely to do the same things their parents are doing. If their parents are texting and driving, they will think: It’s okay to text and drive. If their parent is rude or cuts off other drivers, or is doing just about anything but driving the car, the kids will likely do the same thing once they get behind the wheel in a few years.

Kids are watching us and learning from us every single day, with every single action we make. It doesn’t matter what you say — we all know the adage, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Clearly, hypocrisy between our edicts and our actions has been around for a long time.

But think about it: what actions do you model for your students or your kids? Or just for people at large? We are all learning from each other all the time. It’s human nature — we are always watching to learn.

In the classroom, it’s a big deal for teachers to model a good example. Not just an example of how to write a strong paragraph or how to factor an equation — no. Teachers are also modeling how to treat each other, how to deal with stress, how to be resilient, and so much more.

Think about it: an elementary-level student spends five hours or more with the same adult each day. A middle school or high school student…

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Cindy Shapiro

Cindy Shapiro is long-time teacher living in Colorado. As a writer, she aims to elevate teachers’ voices and provide insight on issues in education.