As educators, I’d say that 90% of our job revolves around the words we say. We’re imparting education, examples, modeling what learning looks like. How effectively we are able to communicate, using our words for good, determines how well we do our job. Language—our words, tone of voice, and pacing— is one of the most powerful tools available to teachers. It permeates every aspect of our day. We cannot engage children in learning, welcome a student into the room, or handle a classroom conflict without using words.
From the good morning I say to as many students as I can, to the good jobs and high fives I give when walking around, to the conversations with teachers. I say a lot. A former coworker ran into a student in a park this week, and she asked her where she went to school…and she responded with mine. When asked who her principal, she was able to say me. She added that I was always happy. Two things there…she was able to name her elementary principal, who is new…and she said that I was always happy. I couldn’t have asked for a better description. To me that means that the words I share on morning announcements, or the hugs I give in the hallways are being communicated as I want them too. It was also a huge reminder that my words have power, power that always has eyes/ears on it. It’s moments like this that gives me pause. Words have power.
My 13-year-old was told, at some point, in her educational career, that “girls aren’t any good at math”. I am sure it was shared in a consolatory manner, as she actually has struggled in math. At least, I like to think that was why something so disastrous was shared. That was 5 years ago, and guess what? Every test she struggles on, every concept that we have to attend tutorials for, it inevitably resurfaces. “But mom, come on, you know girls aren’t good at math. Isn’t that obvious?” No matter how many time I tell her that it isn’t true…no matter how many additional levels of support I give, she has a fixed mindset in THAT area. I can’t undo it. Words have power.
Every day we have the opportunity to convey to our stakeholders valuable, important information. How are you using your power? Are you saying that students are behavior problems, or that you need help to meet that students needs? Are you sharing your academic expectations of far students can go in your class, or are you telling parents that their kid is doing fine? Are you providing resources that help students complete assignments or discover their passion? Our words have power.
Tell your students they are smart. That they aren’t quitters. That they can conquer the world. Give them that opportunity. Let your power be used for good.
Also, just for the record, a couple of besties and I made a facetious prayer at dinner before Garth Brooks a couple of weeks ago, that we could somehow get better seats.
Ya’ll. Words. have. power.