Preparing lessons based in strengths helps students (and teachers) feel successful. This is a laminated tool you can use over and over.
“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.” ― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
As modern teachers, we watch what we say all the time, at least in front of the kids. At this point, most teachers are sure to add a positive spin to their classroom management. Our class rules are mostly written without the words “no” or “don’t”. We diligently follow up our redirections with compliments, and we are careful to ask for “do overs” and “personal space” instead of the crass alternatives we have swimming in our heads.
However, what you say about the kids, and more importantly how you say it, can count just as much as what you say to the kids.
Listening to a teacher put a kid down when the classroom or office doors are closed can feel pretty bad on the receiving end. Your co-teacher, grade level colleague, and maybe even your principal might commiserate, but the conversation usually ends there. Most of us are guilty of this at some point and will even admit that a good vent session can be necessary at times, but they don’t really ever change much of anything. The moment you begin to fault the kid, (“he doesn’t try hard enough, she is such a bad reader”) or worse, label the child (“he’s so ADHD, she can’t read because she’s Dyslexic”) you are only hurting yourself and your chances of helping that student meet your expectations. A simple shift in your language can make a huge difference in your classroom and your working relationships. Instead of complaints, try describing behaviors. Instead of relying on labels, work from the child’s individual goals and services. By making this change, you are opening yourself up to a more of a collaborative dialogue. If I said, “He’s so ADHD,” there’s not a whole lot of sound advice you can give me. But if I said, “He’s having a hard time initiating and completing work,” I’m sure you are already thinking of a handful of strategies I could try. Not to mention, saying, “He’s so ADHD” might make for an awkward parent teacher conference. But saying and asking,”He’s having a hard time getting to work. Do you see the same thing a home?” will open up a constructive conversation. In fact, you might even be able to loop the actual student in to the conversation, teaching him skills of reflection, goal setting, and problem solving and in the end, you end up building up confidence instead of shame. My two favorite parts about teaching in an inclusive, progressive classroom is that we can finally appreciate each child, and we can finally work together to build classroom and school cultures that honor individuality. When we shift our ideas and language about kids, strengths can become foundations for success, and challenges become goals.
This was a lot of talk about talk. We’d like to know, have you ever found power in words?