When I speak, I am mindful of the words I choose to say. I’m careful to not provide too much nurture (to avoid the “nurture shock” syndrome), but I’m also careful to provide valuable feedback that isn’t harsh criticism. As Fisher, Frey and Pumpian (2012) mention, with respect to Carol Dweck’s Mindset, “Praise of fixed traits reinforces a fixed mindset.” We must be mindful of the words we say so we can continue to motivate students to not fear failure and to persevere through endeavors. I think we all need a cheerleader in our lives to motivate us with powerful words; maybe that’s why there are so many websites and books filled with quotes from hundreds of historical figures.
I have a poster on my classroom door that outlines our school’s Guidelines for Success. It reads, “Thoughts create our reality, think positively and deeply; words are powerful, speak appropriately and respectfully; actions represent us, act responsibly and be kind to others.” This is something I point to as a school norm, while our class norms (which the students developed and voted on) also promote respectful language. In order for our school to not just be a safe learning environment, but also a flourishing learning environment, we must model the language and courtesy we expect of them.
On Monday of this week, I learned of a student who was being bullied In multiple classes. She’s a stellar student with nothing but kind words for everyone else, so it did not make sense to me why she would be bullied. Nonetheless, I made sure to remind my class that I am proud of the way they respectfully acknowledge one another throughout our classroom activities. This student who was being bullied was in that class, and after I spoke to the class, I made sure to let each student know something I appreciate from them. She was beaming and her next period teacher called me asking what I had done to make the students so cheerful. I laughed and said I just thanked them for working so hard and for using their resources well! In return, these students told me that they respect that I am constantly giving them good feedback that drives them forward, and those words meant more than anything my administration could have said. These are the students we are here to serve, not the other way around. So when I hear something from them that lets me know I’m doing my job well, it feels great.
Here are my five goals for keeping my school on track to using choice words:
1) When I hear profanity, I won’t lash out at the person using it; I will politely ask them to choose better language and remind them of our norms.
2) I will never raise my voice to my students, but will instead redirect them to our class and school norms, as well as our Guidelines for Success.
3) I will continue to give positive specific feedback to every single student, at least once per week, in order to keep them motivated to persevere.
4) I will participate alongside our school’s Peer Mediation club, which aims to mediate with students who bully, and/or are being bullied, while focusing on edification and encouragement.
5) I will encourage students and colleagues to diplomatically resolve conflicts with others in order to keep our learning environment safe and to model good habits for our students.
Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Pumpian. I. (2012). How to Create a Culture of Achievement In Your Schools and Classrooms. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.