Role model. There’s a lightning rod of a term.

Is this the responsibility of a teacher? Does this designation just add to the burden of a profession already buried in stress and steeped in unreasonable expectations?

Aren’t teachers supposed to ensure that every child learns the robust course and grade standards and then moves on? Teachers rarely have students for more than one year, if that. How are they supposed to build the type of relationships with kids that truly place them in the arena of role models? And are relationships even a prerequisite for role models? Can strangers be role models?

Role model (noun) – Someone worthy of imitation; someone who serves as a good example.

Now that sounds like a teacher to me. Parents – the ultimate role models – send their kids to school for the better part of their waking hours every day. Our job is to teach content, of course, and also to raise, nurture, and develop the young people under our care. As parents in absentia.

Everything we do, they watch. Every word we utter, they hear. The way we treat people, they notice. The way we conduct ourselves, they observe. Simply put, we teach kids…how to be caring, upright, selfless, respectful, committed adults. Let’s go be role models.

Pete Hall is an educational consultant, former award-winning principal, speaker, and author of four books (including Lead On! Motivational lessons for school leaders (Eye on Education, 2011) and Teach, Reflect, Learn: Building your capacity for success in the classroom (ASCD, 2015). He shares his perspectives in 212-word entries every month or so. He can be reached for speaking engagements, professional development, or other queries at