The Power of Our Words
When I was in grad school, I had a professor pose the question, “What do you teach?” The class was composed of teachers working towards a master’s degree in education, so we had students. At first glance, to many, the answer was easy. I teach science or third grade were their common answers. But the “correct answer” was “I teach children.” Once you see it, it changes how you think about the purpose of education.
When we teach children instead of math or science, we spend as much time thinking about the character traits we are modeling as we do academic content. We become deliberate about the words we choose and their power. Language permeates everything we do here at Saklan; it shapes how students think of themselves and others. There is a subtle but powerful difference between saying “good morning students” and “good morning scientists.”
What we say to students helps them build a positive identity and gain a sense of who they are and who they want to become. Our job is to build them up and help them envision themselves in the future. It is to convey the idea that impossible
is just a word and they can grow themselves.
When choosing our language, we think about building trust. We use words and phrases like “I’m not sure, what do you think” or “I never thought of it that way.” Both of these phrases show vulnerability and empower students to push their thinking. Those phrases also build trust, which in turn increases academic confidence.
By working with students in this way, we are modeling how they should be interacting with each other. How they should be supporting each other and how they can play a role in others’ growth. We do teach children, but hopefully, we are teaching them how to teach others.
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