being a teacher, learning, students, titles, word choice

The Many Titles We Bestow

Today I told my students they were geologists.  We started studying earth material in science and so my students now become budding geologists along with the other titles we have earned in 4th grade.  When I pointed out that we were no longer astacologists (someone who studies crayfish) they correctly informed me that they were still that but now were just adding another title to themselves.  I stood blissfully corrected.

So why this title endorsement.  Last week I read a book called Choice Words by Peter H. Johnston, in it he discusses the importance of our language when we speak to our students.  He details how we as teachers should not indicate to beginning readers that they must strive to emulate great readers, but rather tell them that they are readers and that all readers do certain things.  This really hit a chord with me.  I often have used the language of what “great writers” or “strong readers” do and have never realized that perhaps I am then boxing students in.  If I do place them outside of the category of being a strong reader through seemingly innocuous language use, then what stigma am I attaching to their reading skills?

So I have consciously broken free of my language.  Yes, it will take time and yes, I will slip up.  But it is worth it.  After all, we all know firsthand how incredible words can be when attached to our persona.  After all, how many of you got chills the first time you were called a teacher (or the 1,000th time for that matter)?  So think of the language with which we address our students.  Think of the power that we can invest in them just through better or more thoughtful word choices.

My students are no longer striving to be “like geologists,” they are geologists.  In fact, as they pointed out to me; they are many things.  My students are writers, poets, readers and illustrators.  They are filmmakers, commentators, scientists, and social study professors.  They are experts, they are learners, and they are teachers.  And there will be many more titles to come for them.

2 thoughts on “The Many Titles We Bestow”

  1. I love it! What a great thought about how titles can change how we think about ourselves. I DO remember how I felt the first time I was called a teacher. I still get that feeling every time. (I just got my teaching certificate in November.)

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