Model What You Teach

Model What You Teach

When Jane Elliot heard about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., she decided it was important to educate her third-grade class about the evils of judging others by the color of their skin. However, as she taught her children the next day, she realized that they weren’t really absorbing what she was saying. Her now-famous teaching exercise was born. Jane decided to give the children a taste of segregation by separating them according to eye color.

On the first day, the brown-eyed children were made to wear a brown collar. The blue-eyed children were given extra privileges and access to the new jungle gym, while the brown-eyed kids had to sit in the back of the class and were often disparaged. The next day, the children switched and the blue-eyed children were treated badly while the brown-eyed kids enjoyed privileges. By the end of the experiment the kids experienced what segregation felt like — and that would make them kinder people for the rest of their lives.

The lesson for us is if we truly want our children and those around us to learn about our values and ideals, we can’t just tell them; we have to show them. Actions do speak and teach more than words. Words are cheap without actions to back them up.

We all can be “teachers” by living the values that we wish to teach others. In this way, we give people the opportunity to “see” what we say. In other words, don’t just speak about helping the needy — go and work in a soup kitchen. Don’t just profess compassion — be an example of it by actively caring for others. Pictures speak much louder than words — so let’s be the picture of loving, kind, and God-fearing people. Let’s teach by example and model what we preach. (DJS)

David J. Saker Ph.D. (Texas Medical Center Hospice)

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