At the baby and toddler age, children learn best in an informal learning environment – meaning children learn by example. They are learning emotional skills, social skills and practical skills like using the hose to water the garden by following our example.  They learn the basics of language by taking the lead from the older people around them who model the fluency in that language. Language basics are learned through immersion not through rote teaching. In the informal learning environment, a good role model is key. Good role models inspire people to do great things. Many things in a young child’s life are learned in this manner.. including music. We spoke with West Side Music Together’s director Katherine Deane and her new teacher Elisa about being a good role model to children.

UM: Katherine, considering how profound role modeling is at this age, what do you look for in a new teacher?
KD: First and foremost, I look for a positive minded person who full of enthusiasm – someone with an authentically loving, joyful nature. I also look for someone who respects others and treats others the way they want to be treated.

If I was going to make a shopping list of qualities, I say joyful, loving, positive, patient, understanding, compassionate, confident, creative, encouraging, enthusiastic, forgiving and respectful

UM: What do you think makes a good role model?
KD: A good role model needs to be able to make mistakes and recover confidently. Nobody’s perfect. We want people to know that everyone makes mistakes and it’s not the end of the world. So I look for someone who embodies forgiveness as well.

A good role model also demonstrate confidence in themselves and in the people they are inspiring. I still remember teachers who believed in me and encouraged an expression of myself without judgment. I hope that I hire teachers who help children to celebrate who they are.

UM: Elisa, as a new teacher, what makes a good role model?
E: Putting positivity into a learning experience and offering a positive influence to those you’re in contact with. It’s also important to provide a safe environment where it’s ok to make mistakes and take risks. I salute the parents who come in allow themselves to be vulnerable and model for their children and share their experiences with the group. I think a role model needs to be supportive.

UM: Who have been good role models to you?
E: Well it might sound cliché but my Mom has been a good role model to me because she’s always made learning fun and allowed me to feel supported and confident in the choices I made. My mother taught me that making learning fun is the best approach – learning without knowing that you’re learning!

UM: What qualities about you make you a good role?
E: I sincerely like to have fun. I’ve had a lot of experience around children and everything I’ve done seems to involve kids so it’s easy for me to bring out my fun, enthusiastic side and find those qualities in myself that kids will look up to. And I think of my mom and what she’s taught me about learning.

I also think I’m good at putting people at ease when they walk in so that they feel comfortable being there and participating.

While it is important to have a good role model in the teacher, the parent is the best role model for any child, which is why classes with active parent participation are an excellent choice for families with young children. The teacher becomes not only a good role model for the child, but also for the parents.

UM: Parents need support and encouragement too!

Talk is one thing. Actually being involved is far more powerful. Kids start to feel, ‘this is what our family does’ which is much more profound learning than this is what I do once a week for fun. Role modeling is a powerful force in any young child’s life. Planning these kind of character building activities will draw the family together and create a common ground for social and emotional development.

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.
– James Baldwin, an American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist.

Space still available at in the West Side Music Together’s fall session and registration begins starting August 2nd.  Classes take place at St. Stephen’s church across from the new West Vancouver Community Centre.