Teachers Have Power

I’m in Responsive Classroom training this week. I’ve been using many aspects of the program for years (thanks to awesome colleagues who knew way more than I did), but I’ve never actually taken the class.

I’my grateful for all that background knowledge as I think these days would be much more overwhelming without it. I’m still in a bit of cognitive overload.

This morning we began with teacher language. As Choice Words is one of my all time favorite books, teacher language is something on which I am constantly working. The thing that really struck me today, in our work and conversations, was how much power we have as teachers and how often our language plays a large role in that. We have the power to make or break days for kiddos. And really, not just days but weeks and months and more. The tone and words we use are critical in this. One of the important characteristics of teacher language, according to Responsive Classroom, is that it should show faith in children’s abilities and potential. That’s really big. What we say and how we say it should show faith in children’s abilities and potential. It’s not always easy to do.

Another bit of our day that got me thinking about the power we have as teachers was the introduction to responding to misbehavior. Our leader asked us to list all the reasons we speed. It was a pretty good list: in a hurry, distracted, it’s fun, need to get to something better, etc. at the end, she titled the list Reasons Kids Misbehave. Many people made audible sounds of amazement when she did that.

She then said, “I noticed no one said ‘to make the cop mad.'”

Finally, she asked us to think about how we feel when we are stopped by a police officer. People said they feel anxiety, fear, they cry.

We are often the cop to our students. We don’t have to be. We don’t have to make them feel that way.

If we genuinely believe in their abilities and potential we will treat them in ways that shows them that.

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