Accelerating Student Achievement

Although TV shows such as Teachers and Waterloo Road might cast teachers firmly in the “Do as I say, not as I do” mould rather than the role-model types that the profession demands, there’s no getting away from the fact that sometimes we do need reminding about just how youngsters see us and why they might need
influencing in positive ways.


Although a proportion of teachers enter the profession with a clear passion for their subject and their subject alone, the majority become teachers because they have an affinity with kids, want to share a joy of learning and because they feel they have something positive to offer in terms of shaping young lives – the subject they happen
to be teaching is almost incidental!

Such teachers are natural role models who are very aware of both the subtleties of their influence and the examples they set consistently from day to day by being reliable, staying calm under pressure, and treating colleagues and students alike with respect. Such teachers are also usually generally aware of the alternative
sledge-hammer influence they can also wield when necessary – the “You need to stop that now because…” kind!


All teachers are role models although many may also enjoy a professional mentoring role for individuals within a form group, year group or subject group. By its nature, this mentoring tends to be very learning centred and even, in some schools, subject and grade focused.

Although mentors can be of great educational benefit – through embodying academic success and positive attitudes to learning – a role model can offer a more holistic influence.

As we all know, role models of every kind pervade teenage lives and can influence their image and interests as well as behaviour and attitudes, so helping teenagers particularly to choose positive role models is extremely important, as well as encouraging them to articulate the positive attributes they perceive in those they’ve chosen to emulate.

More often than not, it’s a celebrity’s confidence and success that teenagers look up to – both attributes you probably already hope to draw out in your students.

Sporting role models are particularly popular and have been used in many campaigns such as boys’ reading initiatives, to help inspire children in positive ways to realise their aspirations and goals, even when the going gets tough.


“Sport is a metaphor for overcoming obstacles and achieving against great odds.
Athletes, in times of difficulty, can be important role models.”

Bill Bradley – American Hall of Fame basketball player


Take a moment to think about your own role models – both when you were the age of the kids you’re now teaching and currently. This can help you to focus on what makes a positive role model, and how you can offer the same kind of influence to those around you in all aspects of your work.

You have to be consistent with our application of the rules in order to achieve positive learning environments. This means following through with your commitment to uphold both behaviour policy and expected standards of behaviour

regardless of whether you were up beyond midnight marking last night, have a headache or are generally exhausted because it’s Friday.

Turning a blind eye or letting something go lets your students know you don’t stick to your commitments or follow through with your promises. Even during exhaustingly long terms and overwhelming demands of parent evenings and coursework marking, it’s important to stay consistent in and confident about the message
that you’re giving out.


Don’t underestimate the power of peer role models. Most teachers at some point pair up a child who’s clearly not getting much out of their time at school with a child who loves every minute of what they’re doing, in the hope that something positive will rub off.

And it can work. From breaking up disillusioned (or disruptive) groups within classes to strategic seating which endeavours to facilitate positive influence between students,

there are many ways of using role models in the classroom to help benefit your students – although care should be taken to ensure that it’s not the negative influence which pervades!


The best kind of role model you can be is one who aims high but is not afraid to admit mistakes or demonstrate weaknesses (appropriately) in the classroom. Although teachers are expected to be super-human nowadays, we’re not super-infallible either. Forgotten something vital? There’s nothing wrong with admitting it, apologising for it and
showing problem-solving skills to remedy the situation. Thinking aloud whilst doing so will demonstrate the process to eager minds.

Being flawless isn’t what being a role model is about. Yes, we want our students to have high standards, show commitment and fulfil their potential but let’s keep it real: if they expect themselves and those around them to be flawless, their future is not going to be a happy one. Showing that mistakes and errors are a part of learning
is fine. If they’re following in your footsteps then they’re bound to see you put your foot in it every so often, but also see you standing on your own two feet to put things right!

That’s it from Unstoppable Schools for this month – we’ll be back in November discussing the problems caused by bullying and the techniques teachers can use to improve student relationships.


Be Unstoppable!

Kevin Mincher

Creator of Unstoppable Schools & Unstoppable Teen


A quote to inspire you and your students:

“Role models really matter. It’s hard to imagine yourself as something you don’t see.”
Chelsea Clinton – daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Hilary Clinton


Additional Materials

Over on TES there’s a Role Models and Superheroes PowerPoint to help students with additional needs focus on the idea of role models and aspirations. It would make a great form-time resource. Role Models and Superheroes

• The Notebook Gallery (which offers free membership and some free resources) has a fun SMART Board activity which will allow you to present yourself to your students as the ultimate role model. Role Model


Copyright 2014, Unstoppable Schools Ltd.

All rights to the written elements of this article are reserved.