As far back as I can remember, there have been various moments that have imprinted on my brain when someone has spoken to me and used various words that have impacted how I think. I bring this up because I am learning new language and reconstructing old words as society evolves and I am thinking about how I speak in classrooms more than I have ever before. How do the words I use impact the students I teach? How might I improve the language I use to be more inclusive?
A recollection I have from one of my earliest memories was during the warm months as an elementary student. I can’t quite say how old I was, but the memory is still vivid. There was a soccer team I was a part of and I happened to be the only girl on the team. We were in an important game, as far as I can remember, and in one instant the soccer ball nails me square on the nose and the blood begins to pour; along with my tears. Beyond that moment, the only thing I remember is my coach stating that this was why girls should not play organized sports. Imprinted for life.
Fast forward to my career in education.
I have, to be honest, quite frequently I have used the term “guys”. By no means was there a negative intention behind the use of it, but now, when I do happen to let it slip, I catch myself and try to use another term. It’s not easy to always be on our game about what and how we say things, but I do believe it is our responsibility and part of the educational code.
The latest term or phrase that is beginning to become more and more prevalent is the use of “IEP students.” I’m not sure how or why it began, and I am not sure how we change this, but it is not okay. It is not okay in classrooms and it is especially not okay in our staff rooms. Do we want to define our students first by a label and then by their name?
The language we use is a direct correlation to how we perceive the student. You construct the framework with how you see and feel about a student through the language you use. I will say it again – we construct the framework with how we see and feel about a student through the language we use. If this is true, how does this framework impact the way in which we teach?
Our profession is a tough one. It’s messy. Complicated. Overwhelming at times. Rewarding at others. To think of having to watch what we say every moment within our schools can be exhausting, but I think it is important. One word may imprint on our students in a positive or negative way and it is up to us to not tell our students’ stories. They must construct their stories themselves. I’m not saying I have mastered how I speak, by any means, but I am definitely working hard at it until it becomes habitual.
I wanted to write this today, because I think, now more than ever, we as educators must be truly cognizant of the language we use, especially within the walls of our schools.
Yours in learning,
Check out the April 2017 issue of Educational Leadership “Differences, Not Disabitilites” for some great articles 🙂