The Words of a Teacher Matter Much

Once in a while, times arise in my lessons where I am tempted to say something potentially negative toward another person. As I pay attention to these times, I become better at turning them into positive messages.

phone2We as teachers should recognize that our words matter. It can be difficult to rein in every thought in the teaching day but we should make an effort to. Words we speak can shape realities in our students and even help define their self-esteem be it high or low. The worst part about reckless words is that we often can never gauge what they do to our students. When I hear that something positive I said HELPED a former student, I feel energized to continue being the best teacher I can be. On the other hand, when I get the occasional complaint, discover my words were misunderstood and it hurt someone’s feelings, I am often devastated. It can sap my motivation to be the cheerleader of kids I know I should be. Yes that’s right, a teacher should be a cheerleader with her/his words.

Pick a random way to share positive words. I am a big fan of using playing cards to pick random non-volunteers. I also use them to share what I call “positives” with my kids throughout the day. This in turn becomes a modeling exercise and they see how they can share positives with me and with each other. I even wrote a “Morning Positive Song” on my guitar and we sing it almost every day when we start this intermittent activity throughout the day. It sets the tone. A positive can be as simple as “I like your shoes.” After someone gets a positive, I always ask them: “How did that make you feel.” This shows the class that even the simplest of words can produce good feelings that we all crave.

Think before you speak. This may go without saying but I think we all can use a reminder. Once in a while, times arise in my lessons where I am tempted to say something potentially negative toward another person. As I pay attention to these times, I become better at turning them into positive messages. Example: I was coaching pairs through reading back and forth to each other and the kids did not understand the word karma. I knew that one child’s parents were Buddhists and I was tempted to make them the example. I caught myself due to the potential embarrassment there and made another analogy more suited to a universal positive. As teachers, we really really really need to think before we speak. This is true even in the face of a culture that thinks negatives and put-downs are ok and the norm.

To close, make a note to yourself tomorrow to try thinking more about what you say. I think your will find your day much more satisfying and chances are your kids will get a lot more out of what you have to say. Thank you for reading my post. I hope you will take the time to comment. What do you think of the power of words in the teaching profession?

Author: Damien Riley

Having been a public school teacher since 1997, I've gained valuable classroom experience. Sometimes a great tool is a dynamite lesson plan. These posts are from a real teaching journey. I hope they inspire you. Thanks for reading!

Leave a Reply