Professor Dumbledore once said to Harry Potter, "Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it (Rowling 2007)." Dumbledore was more correct than he realized. I've been repeating this line over and over in my head for days while thinking about this post. Teachers sometimes forget the power their individual choice of words can have. What one teacher might think is a slightly sarcastic joke, can affect a student for a long time. I have some personal experience with this in my first year of teaching. I made a sarcastic comment to an eighth grade student on the third day of school. I don't remember exactly what I said, but I do vividly remember her getting out of her desk and sitting on the ground crying. We had a long chat in the counselors office after class, and we eventually built a good rapport. Four years later, she invited me to her high school graduation as a special guest. Ever since that rocky introduction to teaching, I have been extremely careful with my words. I tend to err on the side of caution when speaking to students, and use some high academic language. When they don't understand what I am saying, it becomes a teachable moment on linguistics, and how to use a dictionary instead of 'Googling' everything.
A sad truth is that more often schools and teachers are becoming a parental figure for our students. It is not always because the parents don't care about their children, but when parents are struggling financially, working multiple jobs, they don't have the opportunity to spend as much time with their children as they wish. It becomes the responsibility of educators to ensure all children feel welcome, supported, and cherished. Activities in the classroom can be designed to give students a voice, and to learn to use their voices. We have a myriad of tools available for this, blogs, podcasts, video production apps, websites, etc... There is almost no limit to the ability for teachers to guide students to a place my good friend calls, "Achieving Audience." When a student achieves audience, they have a voice, and an identity that they use to empower themselves through that voice.
To my knowledge I have never worked with a teacher who wasn't supportive and student centered in their educational practice. Yes, we do occasionally make mistakes, and as a school leader I would encourage discussions about those verbal missteps. As noted in my platform blog from this week, as a leader I want my teachers to view me as non threatening. I think that if I am truly able to create the type of environment I envision, then teachers will feel free to share their accidents and have conversations with each other, and with me. My favorite painter Bob Ross always said, "We don't make mistakes, we have happy accidents." This is true, we can look at our mistakes as happy accidents to start conversations and continue our improvement as educators. This is easily doable by all educators and staff members.
5 Things to commit myself to:
1. I will speak in a calm voice, even when I am being challenged by an interesting student.
2. I will keep my classroom door open to encourage students to come in for conversations about their work.
3. I will make sure to compliment students on their achievements more often.
4. Winston Churchill said that it "takes courage to speak, it also takes courage to sit down and listen." In that spirit, I will try to listen more to my students, and not just start talking over them.
5. When discussing "happy accidents" in the classroom with other teachers, I will make sure to transform the conversation into a learning experience.
"Bob Ross Quotes." - All Quotes. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2015.
Rowling, J. (2007). Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. New York, NY: Arthur A. Levine Books.
"Winston Churchill Quotes." BrainyQuote. Xplore, n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2015.