Reflecting on role models

Here at Along, we’ve been thinking a lot about renewal. We’ve been wondering: What makes someone develop a renewed sense of self or motivation? And how can we encourage that spirit of discovery in students?

One answer we’ve come up with is a fun one. Role models! Whether a student admires a singer, a sister or a scientist, role models can loom large in a young person’s life. They can provide inspiration and make students strive harder for their goals. With that in mind, we wanted to create an easy pathway to talk about role models and to use those conversations to inspire a renewed sense of purpose.

It all starts with a question…   

Step #1: Reflect on Role Models

The first step is to get students reflecting on who they admire. The answer might come quickly for some students. And, for others, it might take some thinking. Either way, Along provides a safe space to have this conversation and for students to consider who they look up to. You can either create your own reflection question or use one of ours. Here are a couple to start:

Who is someone you admire and/or would like to meet? Why do you admire them?

Who is your favorite athlete? What do you like about them?

Who is your favorite superhero? Why?

Be sure to explain to students that there is no wrong answer. Anyone can be a role model, from a coach to a historical figure to an animated character. It’s about the qualities in them you admire.

Step #2: Really Listen

When you ask students to think about role models, you’re also asking them to explain why they admire that person. In other words, you’re asking them to articulate qualities they’d like to emulate. So when a student says they admire a basketball player, make sure to listen hard and hear why they admire that athlete. Is it the player’s competitive spirit? Their dedication? Their teamwork? Their discipline? In some ways, the role model itself matters less than the qualities the student is paying attention to. 

Step #3: Turn Answers into Insights

After you’ve been clued into the characteristics the student admires, you’ve unlocked a whole new way to understand your student. They’ve given you a key to their motivation and a way to provide support if they need their focus or attention renewed. You can now praise the student when they show dedication similar to Venus Williams or teamwork similar to Spider-Man. You’re providing a fresh way for students to see their own actions — and to show that they aren’t so far away from the figures they admire.

Want more tips on turning reflection questions into insights? See our resource here.

With the three steps above, you’ll learn more about your students while keeping the conversation light and fun. And be sure to reveal your own role models! (Even if they’re funny or old-school.) The more both sides share, the more role models become a point of connection and source of renewed inspiration for everyone involved.