I had the opportunity to reflect on the power of words recently. I was observing one of many animated football games on the playground when I noticed a boy miss a catch from a teammate. His classmates were particularly hard on him as the end-zone catch was “crucial” to the game. This boy went off to a corner of the playground and appeared to be wiping away tears. Not to embarrass him further, I just watched for a minute. He collected himself, shook it off, and soon rejoined the game with no malice or ill will that I could detect. Later that day, I was able to speak a few words to the other players, and they acknowledged being too hard on missed catches. It happens to everyone, they agreed. The young man who bore the brunt of the insult was harder to catch up with, however I spoke to him the following day. He seemed genuinely humbled at having his actions noticed. I saw a sense of pride and, though I may have imagined it, he seemed to carry himself taller during his next interactions with classmates on the playground. I relate this story because it reminded me of the power of our words. Teachers have many “powers” but none may be so important as the messages we send to our young charges. A positive compliment, or noticing a small but significant event in their lives, goes such a long way. Our words, for good or not so good, can be life changers.
Last week, teachers in the lower school spent the day learning more about Responsive Classroom and how this program will benefit our boys. Language is one aspect of the Responsive Classroom model. It is important to use words that inspire and teach rather than words that limit growth. According to their website, “Teacher language is the professional use of words, tone, and pace to enable students to engage in active and interactive learning; be contributing members of a positive learning community; and develop the academic, social, and emotional learning skills they need to improve their learning outcomes and be successful in and out of school. “ This very important tenet of the Responsive Classroom model includes specific practice with reinforcing language, reminding language, and redirecting language. An example of reinforcing language would be to name concrete and specific examples- instead of “Great job!” say “You really worked carefully on the last section of this …..” One basic take away for teachers was that rather than say, “I like the way you…..” rather say, “I noticed that you….” This allows the child to see that the positive things they do are not to please you but rather to please themselves. This goes such a long way towards building intrinsic motivation and less dependency on praise. Many great lessons for parents as well! Below is a link to the Responsive Classroom website that I have mentioned before. There are many blog articles that give insight into how to help children learn.
I hope that my communication with you each week encourages “talking points” to inspire conversation with your son or sons. Here are some “talking points” based on recent school events.
- If you are in Kindergarten- What are you enjoying about your Thursday playdates with first and prep-one boys?
- If you are in Prep-One- What are you learning about the Olympics? How did your bobsled design go in the test run?
- If you are in First Grade- What did you enjoy about the experience of the Presidential Parade? Whose speech did you enjoy besides your own?
- If you are in Second Grade- What have you learned about subtraction with borrowing and regrouping? Did you read many hours for the read-a-thon?
- If you are in Third Grade- What Iditarod activities filled your day this week? How did your sled fare in the science challenge? What did you learn from the experience?
- If you are in Fourth Grade- What are you looking forward to from 4A’s play this week? How are you progressing with Typing Club? How did the hot chocolate and donut sale with Student Council fourth and fifth grade boys turn out?
- If you are in Fifth Grade- How was your experience with the ERB testing the other week? How many hours did you read for the read-a-thon?