“Who was your model?” one of my students asked me after I had posed the same question to the class last week during “A Management Approach to Organizational Development” at the Zicklin School of Business. We were discussing the topic of “Motivation Concepts” and specifically “self-efficacy,” an individual’s belief that she is capable of performing a task. One of the ways to develop self-efficacy is “vicarious modeling.”
Vicarious modeling is a process during which you can gain self-confidence while watching others perform a task similar to the one you are doing. Through observation, you can picture yourself performing that same way.
“Prof. Ogletree,” was the answer I gave to my students. Although I’ve had many good professional role models in my career, Charles J. Ogletree topped my list that evening. Today, Ogletree is the Jesse Climenko Professor of Law and the Director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School. Former instructor of President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle when they attended Harvard, Prof. Ogletree is an esteemed and prolific writer and public speaker involved in sometimes controversial and embarrassing situations. Yet, his style of conducting a college class has remained my model for almost twenty years.
In 1990, I transitioned my master’s degree in early childhood education into a career as an Adjunct Faculty member in the City University System. Sometime in the 1990’s, I watched a weekly program on PBS that featured Prof. Ogletree conducting a class of what were probably his law students. I forget the name of the program but I can’t forget his “in the face” type of approach when educating his audience. He sat down on a desk near his students, he called on everyone, and he relentlessly challenged the answers and the assumptions they offered.
Watching Prof. Ogletree over a long time, I vicariously became him in not just college classrooms but corporate classrooms where I would teach employees how to use technology, manage workplace relationships, or engage in innovative exercises.
During my “performance” each evening when I’m teaching students at Zicklin, I am “in their faces,” moving around the classroom to be physically close to individuals while challenging them to provide “stretch” answers that expand their horizons. I call on every one of my almost 30 students in each session, requiring them to state their opinion on a topic, explain a concept, or come up with another idea on how to deal with a difficult employee. I push them out of their comfort zones and they answer back with a willingness to be in-the-moment and to perform on the classroom stage.
While watching Prof. Ogletree on TV, I incorporated his style into my training as an educator. I felt capable of performing the role because I earned positive feedback from my students and on faculty evaluations.
I love teaching and I thank Prof. Ogletree’s style of teaching during his shows on PBS for the vicarious modeling he provided.