Children do not learn how to act appropriately by magic. They acquire their behaviors, whether socially acceptable or not, by watching and copying others. When children do not exhibit appropriate behavioral skills, it is the responsibility of adults to model and teach them the correct ones.
Educators cannot rely on the possibility that their students learned appropriate behavioral skills at home. Indeed, many students enter school with little or no understanding of how to act appropriately. That is why educators must often try to erase unacceptable behaviors learned at home by teaching socially acceptable behavioral skills in the classroom.
Transferring social skills from textbook or verbal directions to actual situations is often hit or miss. Some students acquire them easily, others learn them through trial and error and still others do not get them at all. The sad fact is, too many students are able to verbalize the appropriate responses but are unable or unwilling to apply them in actual situations.
As with any behavioral technique, reinforcement is the key to changing behaviors. By using both tangible and intangible motivating reinforcers, students receive rewards and inspiration to replicate the desired behavioral skill.
By applying behavioral techniques such as the "Stop, Look and Act" approach, students can develop a routine to use when assessing unfamiliar situations and responding to them in a socially acceptable manner. This basic role-modeling technique provides the essential components that students can apply throughout the role-modeling lesson. Eventually, they will be able to incorporate this technique and use it in a variety of social settings and situations.
Most people learn through trial and error. They acquire appropriate behavioral skills by practice. Positive role models who instruct students can reach most of them by teaching the appropriate responses. This is especially true if they start teaching appropriate behavior on the first day of the student's educational career, and consistently reinforcing them throughout the school experience. They develop lesson plans to teach social skills, and the students demonstrate those skills throughout the daily school routine. When applied in a variety of settings, the students have developed the ability to generalize the appropriate behavioral skills.
As most teachers have discovered, students are not coming to school with the appropriate behavioral skills. Educators no longer just reinforce skills they learned at home, but must integrate behavioral skills training as part of the daily curriculum. The information in this publication will help teachers instruct students in appropriate behavioral skills through the technique of role modeling.