I have always loved language and words! I know that sounds kind of weird, but it is true – crosswords, word searches, Boggle, UpWords, Scrabble, the Childcraft books that came with the World Book Encyclopedias, and Babysitters’ Club books filled many days when I was young. Then my favorite class in college – LINGUISTICS. I thought I was in heaven!
Words make us feel!
- Excitement … my infant says momma (or something that sounds like momma) and tears immediately fill my eyes.
- Fear … “I think we need to talk.”
- Happiness … my 14-year-old says “Mom, I love you” (or anything at all to me). Grief … “Pap has passed.”
- Inspiration … Mom saying “I am proud of you” (yes – even at 43 this still matters).
- Disappointment … “I am sorry, but we chose another candidate.”
- Love – “I appreciate you.”
Language. This stringing together of words that we often take for granted is so important. It allows us to think together. It creates culture … language creates a community.
What we say and how we say it shows others what we think and how we feel – and it matters. A group of students is off task … a teacher says “Get back to work or you will be eating lunch with me.” Or “When you are off task it interferes with the learning of others and makes me feel frustrated.” Or “What is going on? What is getting in the way of your learning? How can I help you get back on track?”
Using we to describe our classroom communities, referring to our young learners as readers and writers, describing our English learners as developing bilinguals – all of these nuances are meaningful and convey different messages.
Recently a teacher shared a quote with me that reminded me of the power teachers as the adults in the room hold.
“The messages that students receive externally become the messages they give themselves.”
What messages are our students hearing? Are these messages what we want them to hear? We must be more careful with our words and never forget the power they hold!