Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Power of Language Cannot be Underestimated

As educators, what we say and do in the classroom on a daily basis is often scrutinized and analyzed to the nth degree. We aim to empower our students with motivating and powerful words rather than degrade or insult them (obviously!). But what happens when moments get the best of us and we say something to a student we instantly regret that can be misconstrued and easily taken out of context? After all, we may be teachers, but we are also human.

In my six years of teaching, I have made my fair share of disrespectful and harsh remarks to students I'd like to take back. I am sometimes too sarcastic to students, which is inappropriate and not handled well by 13 and 14 year olds.

An unfortunate incident occurred with one of our staff members last week that reminded me of the power of language in instilling self-worth, confidence, and pride in our students and their identities. The statement made to the student was not done in a malicious or mean-spirited way, and I can see how this teacher got caught up in the moment and said such a thing. I too know this student and how difficult his/her behaviors can be, depending on the day.

I invite you to read the email response to the incident from the student's parent below, which I have edited to remove all personal identification and protect the confidentiality of all individuals involved. You will find this parent's response to be well-written, insightful, and important for all educators to hear.

Good Afternoon Everyone:

I wanted to communicate what my child shared with me the other day about a comment a teacher (Teacher A) made to him/her. Teacher A saw my child in the front office and overheard someone call out his/her name. Teacher A then commented, "So you're the infamous (child's name here) I've been hearing about". Later, my child came home to ask me what the word "infamous" meant while looking the word up in the dictionary. 

Language conveys a lot, and the language used with my child was not appropriate, in my opinion. Maybe the teacher made the comment on a light note- but for a child who is already struggling with self-esteem issues, it was conveyed hurtfully. Some people wonder why some youth are full of anger, but we miss the importance of how we fail to treat individuals respectfully and communicate with them appropriately. Although I'm this child's mother, I still continue to work on how I use language with him/her at home and feel that I have to be careful with my words and the way in which I respond to his/her actions. 

Language and how we choose our words is so important when we are dealing with youth. More importantly, we have to be careful not to be so quick to label. Even children who are arsonist, sexual predators, fight everyday, rob, and do many unlawful things within society need appropriate adult guidance and respect. These same children may turn their lives around in the best way and be of great service to society in their adult years. My child does not fall into any of those categories but has had some rough days and made some wrong choices at school. What needs to be recognized is that most days he/she does well at school from the feedback I'm receiving from teachers who have been supportive and use positive reinforcement.

My child has shown great improvements as he/she matures and is bright enough to look forward to the best out of the worst of situations. He/she takes his school work and grades very seriously and has been capable of turning things around for the better all on his/her own initiative. He/she is his own toughest critic and doesn't need an adult to kick him down. Everyone need to be respected, and to be called infamous is not respectful nor received well. 

In the school environment, teachers and administrators usually have the last say. It's mandatory to empower children rather than trying to set them up for failure and degrading them.

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