Students spend half of there time at school, maybe more. Many students go home to an empty house, or a destructive one. School has more influence and power over our students than we often realize. Students learn more from us than just content.
2. How aware are you and your colleagues of the impact our choice of words have on developing students’ agency and identity? Can you give examples?
We try our best to be proactive in our use of choice words. I think about many situations where we are aware of the power of words. In my classroom, I refer to the students as "English Scholars". We have discussed the idea that we have a writing community where we use words to build each other up instead of tear each other down while we offer constructive feedback orally and written. We carry out circles where students practice engaged listening and speaking skills that they carry out through class. If something was to happen that did not follow our pillar of Do No Harm, we look to our restorative questions as mentioned in How to Create a Culture of Achievement in Your School and Classroom.
3. What would you do, if anything, to make using choice words a more conscious and accountable school wide practice if you were the school leader?
I am a strong believer of continuously discussing character with my students. In doing this, we often connect this to our social purpose of the day. More times than not, we find that this comes back to body language. In our middle school, it seems that this is the language that seems to be easily forgotten about yet misused. We practice role playing in the classroom to bring attention to what they are unable to identify personally.
4. What could you do, if anything, to make the use of choice words a more conscious and accountable personal practice as well as one embraced by others on your site? Are those things within your sphere of influence?
This is something that I can have a stronger influence on and believe that I have had the unfortunate opportunity to practice this. As many would agree, for people to always meet eye to eye in a work environment is hard to come by. Well, it is hard to come by in life in general. I have also had the opportunity of attending a professional development workshop regarding having "hard conversations". A few weeks ago, one of my colleagues was feeling pretty ill and due to the fact that she had missed much work because of it, I feel that she was under a bit more stress than a normal workday. Lets face it, everyone's workday contains stress, even if it is brought on by excitement. Well, I did not feel completely comfortable with they way she had spoken to me and after some though about what I should do, I decided, after sleeping on it, to ask her to meet with me to let her know how I felt about the situation. We each had a chance to speak. In the end, we laughed about the misunderstanding, hugged, and realized a few things. One, body language and tone is not just something that our students need to pay more attention to. This is something that adults need to practice to set the "tone". Two, we talked about how sad it is that not all adults do what we expect in our students when it comes to resolving a conflict. And three, by discussing this with one another and then sharing this with our coworkers, we set an example of what is expected when conflict arises in our school community and family.
5. Commit to 5 things you are willing to do this semester that will make your school choose words wisely?
1. Provide our students with the opportunity to role play situations more often. We have done this once in our English class which in turn showed up in another content class. They practiced it and then used it.
2. Continue to lead by example with restorative techniques.
3. Use proactive language instead of reactive.
4. Provide opportunity for real world discussions through text by using a new website that i learned about at the Time to Thrive conference this year. The website is called Teaching Tolerance.
5. Collaborate with my fellow teachers to assist in language instruction in the various content areas.
6. Actively participate in "Spread the Word to End the Word". Incorporates a lesson involving a pledge to stop using the "R" word.