I am amazed at the power of words. Before language people roamed the earth barely surviving. Written language created communities, culture, technology, and our way of life today. As teachers we have a high calling to use words to make human lives better and to educate our students to do the same.
Our words are the most powerful weapon on Earth. Each one of us has experienced moments when someone has used their words to attack us or put us down. When someone has screamed, “I hate you!” or pointed out an attribute of ourselves that we are uncomfortable with, this acid can cause lifelong wounds. In our classrooms teachers have to deal daily with the students who use their words to cut their peers down, or to cause trouble. Often these negative words come from fear or a desire to put someone lower in order to elevate the attackers self esteem.
We have all felt the positive power of words. When someone we look up to pays us a compliment. Words like, “I love you,” “It’s a baby girl,” “Summer Break,” all have the power to lift our spirit. In our classrooms the teacher becomes the main barometer of encouragement. We have to model compliments, praise, and encouragement even when we have little to give. In our classes students need to be given opportunities to praise their peers and to expand their language to more accurately convey their thoughts. i.e. “Your so ghetto” “Your so phat”
In my classroom when we finish a project I have my students fill out a compliment sticky. On this small piece of paper students are encouraged to write something specific that they liked about their classmates presentation. At the conclusion of the presentation I give the students an opportunity to hand out their compliments like students would a valentine. Most students want to immediately read their praise and the encouragement that that they receive makes their face shine. At the end of the year when we clean the pounds of garbage out of each desk that has mysteriously accumulated, students often find these compliment notes tucked away safely in the back of their desk. I’m always impressed by those children who have hung on to their compliments. For some, I’m sure, it is the only positive comments that they get to hear.
In my life I have had many failures using words in ways that I regret, but I also know that even today I am going to have opportunities to encourage. Through a conscience effort we can use our words to create positive homes and classrooms. It all begins with a few small words.
(What is your favorite way to celebrate your student’s accomplishments in your classroom?)