Thursday, September 27, 2012

Monitoring my own teacher language

"Carpet Time!" one of my friends cheered from across the room. "Carpet time!" She waited until one of my friends came to the carpet.

"Sit!" she said loudly and cheerfully again. "Good! That's sitting!"

I sighed. "Whose the teacher?" I asked giving her that 'I mean business' teacher look. 

"Ugggghhhh! YOU are." she admitted with frustration and sat herself on the rug right beside the friend she'd been coaching to the carpet.

The thing is, she pretty much mimicked everything we'd say to the friend to bring him to the carpet. The two behavioral coaches I've worked with over the years have recommended using simple language and making it BIG- excited and animated to command attention. So that's what we've been doing. It's one thing coming from a teacher, it is quite another coming from another student.

The thing is they are ALL copying our language. Until I caught them talking to each other in 'teacher-speak' I didn't even realize how much we are adapting our language for each individual child- and apparently do this all day long- or enough that they've picked up our methods.

One friend benefits from having "this is the direction" stated before I give her a direction, or "this is the question" before the question. Another is given non-verbal warnings of her behavior- simply holding up one or two fingers to indicate where she is on the 1, 2, 3 Magic scale. Another benefits from the loud simple directions, while yet another is frequently joked with and given friendly teasing to encourage participation.

And they copy this for each other. In talking with each other I hear, "This is the question- do you want to sit by me at lunch?" or "Hey dude! Are you baby sitting for Mrs. Lipstick tonight?" I see fingers waving when one friend calls out on the rug to indicate "that's 1". At least I frequently hear "THANK YOU!" in an upbeat, pleasant voice- apparently I say thank you a lot. 

Although our method of communicating with each friend works I need to carefully monitor myself. If everything I say or any small pattern I use to communicate gets copied I have to be extremely mindful of the classroom community. What message am I sending to the other children when I alter my direction? Is my "this is the direction" voice sounding exasperated or just matter-of-fact? Do the other children think the student is in trouble when I phrase things in a certain way because I'm letting my own lack of patience shine through? Am I differentiating appropriately while still maintaining the right amount of respect for each student?

It's eerie to hear our voices through the kids after only 3 weeks of school. It's a huge reminder to watch my own teacher language. I need to make sure that anything that comes out of my mouth is something I am comfortable with them repeating to each other. 

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