Excerpt – Preface

I’ve been studying teachers since I was five years old — first as a student, then for most of my adult life as a colleague.  It has been my privilege to observe many gifted master teachers who educate and inspire through their words and actions, truly making a positive difference in the lives of their students.  I didn’t write this book for them.  This book is for those new to teaching who are attempting to define themselves as professionals, as well as for experienced teachers who have stepped into their natural role as mentors.  New teachers will make many mistakes as they gain experience during their first year of teaching, but if they are perceived as being professional by their administrators, they will be welcomed back the next year; if not, their errors in judgment may be the only impressions they leave behind.

Conducting ourselves as professionals has a far greater importance than mere job security; we need to be mindful of the powerful impact that we have on our students as they develop their impressions of appropriate adult behavior.  I recently read a description of a multimedia presentation titled uBung, written by Josse de Pauw.  The audience faces a large movie screen that covers the entire back wall of the stage.  On it runs a film of a group of adults at a party — laughing, joking, flirting, drinking, and later on, fighting.  Standing in front of the screen on stage is a group of ten-year-olds who mimic the adults’ actions in an eerily realistic manner.  In Flemish, uBung means “practice,” and de Pauw is making the point that children are observers of the adult world — watching, mimicking, and learning.  This is the joy and the burden of the teacher.  Many of us will be remembered as some of the most influential people in our students’ lives, and attention must be paid to what we do and what we say.

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