Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How We Talk About Kids

I'm trying to recreate a document I saw in the very beginning of my teaching career. It listed negative comments teachers frequently say about kids and rephrased it in a more positive manner. Reading over it one felt like it was a list of very obvious phrases that we should not have to be reminded to use or not use, but it was helpful to have in writing. I want to find it or recreate it to give to new teachers who are struggling with how to positively phrase a child's actions and characteristics in meetings. I've been Googling around trying to find something, somewhere that will have it- there have to be examples out there in the great wide internet that can give better phrases than I can come up with. I've typed in "positive talk about kids", "discussing children positively" "positive language for discussing students" and a great many other searches that use some variation of that language.
I've found-


Many articles have popped up on how we talk to children, but I haven't found anything on how we talk about our students. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge advocate of using positive language with students, but we should not stop there. We shouldn't be using very positive language with our class and then going into the teachers' lounge and saying, "OMG that kid is driving me nuts! What is wrong with her?" or coming to meetings to discuss whether or not a student has special needs and saying, "He's so lazy. I just can't get him to do anything."

Even the phrase "He's super low" places an unnecessary judgement on the child. Anyone in the room who hasn't met the student yet immediately applies his or her preconceived notions on what 'low' means to this child and starts to mentally categorize the student. This can change how other people view the child when they meet him, and how they assess him.

Instead of wide reaching statements we can be specific with what we notice by looking at the students behaviors.
"He benefits from directions being repeated."
 "She often requires lessons to be retaught in order to fully grasp the concept."
"She needs reminders to keep her hands to herself during whole group lessons."
"He has difficulty remembering to raise his hand during lessons."

I need your help. What phrases do you often hear used negatively about kids (He's lazy, she's a hot mess, he drives me crazy...) and what are ways we can phrase it more positively?


Jennifer said...

I had a discussion with my cousin when I lovingly called my daughter stubborn (she was two…and stubborn). My cousin corrected me and said, “No, we don't say stubborn, say headstrong.” She didn’t object when I called her recalcitrant, though…

On the teaching side of things, though, I sometimes have students that I refer to as “high energy” or “high maintenance” when I’m speaking to their other instructors – would you consider that positive language?

Clix said...

It's hard for me to remember those sorts of comments. When I'm talking to parents, I often start with "I've noticed" or "I've seen" and then describe the behavior. I also try to stay away from superlatives like "never" "always" and especially "worst!"