Sticks and Stones…….
Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But words will never hurt me.
What kind of lunatic wrote that? I have had broken bones, lost lots of blood, received lots of stitches, and have received many black eyes. I can’t remember the story behind half of them. The cuts have healed, the bones have healed, and the scars have faded. I have been hurt by words. The scars from those words are just as painful today as they were the day they were said to me.
Sticks and stones may break bones, but bones heal, words can leave permanent damage.
My 11 year old daughter came home with a spelling test Monday to be signed—all tests have to be signed, even if it is a 100. On this test she received an “A” and under the grade was a note from the teacher that read “Your handwriting is terrible. It must improve or I will give you extra homework.” Terrible?!! If you want a kid to improve do you call them terrible? If my daughter’s friend was to give a presentation in class would a kid be able to stand up and say “that was terrible!” There are so many ways to motivate children to change their habits. Why do so many teachers use mean words? My daughter is the type of kid that would do anything if a teacher asks. Why not lean over her shoulder and whisper “ You are doing awesome on your spelling tests, but if you can just write a little neater it would really help me be able to read your answers.” Instead she feels terrible because she has been labeled terrible.
The words that are chosen by a teacher carry so much meaning and power. I think we all forget just how much power we have. When a kid falls down in class and forgets homework, does poorly on a test, or even is the biggest thorn in our side, we have a choice to use words that beat them down or lift them up. Great teachers do not focus on beating kids down and putting them in their “place.” Great teachers lift kids up with their words and reveal to students that they can do what they previously thought was impossible. They find a way to give their kids wings.
Until the eagle’s children discovered their wings there was no purpose for their lives.
Last night we had a conference with my other daughter’s teacher. My wife mentioned that my daughter was a bit tired of being stuck in the same class again with some…ummm…rambunctious kids. The teacher talked about how she is taking a positive approach with dealing with these kids. She is not using a marble jar or a system of punishing rules. She is trying some positive management schemes that impacts the individuals and not the entire class, and that slowly their behavior is shaping up and changing. What I noticed, and I might totally be wrong here, is that her voice and body posture changed while telling us this–almost like she was bashful about going against the educational gods by not simply laying down the law, being strict, and using all those mean words to show them who was boss. She is in a school in which class wide punishments for single kids actions are common, and as I stated previously, mean words are used to change behavior.
She and every teacher should realize that what you do to one kid you do to the entire class. Saying mean words to one kid, is just like infecting the entire class. It shows the class that being mean, sarcastic, putting them in their place, or yelling is an acceptable form of behavior, and it should not surprise us that the students in those rooms often get in trouble for doing and saying the same things that the teachers have said to them. Using words to lift students, lifts the entire class. Being kind even while “disciplining” a kid reminds the entire class to be kind even when they are dealing with the knuckleheads in this world. In my daughter’s class it might take 10 months to get the kids “under control” but my daughter will have learned that love is more powerful than being mean. You can actually change negative behaviors by being kind, loving, and yes…even by being fun.
I wonder if mean words come from giving work that is not authentic… With authentic work, the lesson learned comes from the results. Miss a meeting and your client doesn’t hire you. Hand in paper work for a grant late and you don’t get the money. Repair cars incorrectly and the shop asks you to leave. Don’t make correct change as a cashier and the difference is taken from your pay. If you do something wrong in school for an assignment that in reality does not mean anything, do teachers feel the need to tech you a lesson with their words? Or do the words come from a place that is angry not because of the students actions but because of the teachers inability to control the actions?
I have noticed that by the time kids get to me they have already been “taught” who they are, how they should act, what they will be. Not blantantly, but in a subliminal way. The “smart” kids are encouraged to go onward and upward, the “troubled” kids, whether behavior or academic, are told do “this” or else–they are stuck in a constant struggle with someone who is trying to control them. The troubled kids have stopped believing in themselves, have stopped believing that they can use their wings to fly, and that they do have a purpose in this world. We spend a lot of time putting them down. We should be spending our time lifting them up and teaching them to spread their wings and fly.
The next time you have the have the opportunity to speak to a kid about that annoying behavior they have, whether it’s talking in class, not putting their name on their paper, chewing gum, or even being a bully…try using words that lift them up, instead of words that put them down. In the end you want them to fly with the eagles, instead of scratching down with the chickens 😉
A man once found an eagle’s egg and put it in the nest of a barnyard hen. The eagle hatched and grew up with the rest of a brood of chicks and though he didn’t look at all the same. He scratched the earth for worms and bugs and played the chicken’s games. The eagle clucked and cackled, he made a chicken’s sound; He thrashed his wings, but only flew some two feet off the ground. That’s high as chickens fly, the eagle had been told. The years passed and one day when the eagle was quite old. He saw something magnificent flying very high and making great majestic circles up there in the sky. He’d never seen the likes of it. “What’s that?” he asked in awe, while he watched in wonder at the grace and power he saw. “Why that’s an eagle,” someone said, “He belongs up there, it’s clear. Just as we, since we are chickens, belong earthbound down here.” The old eagle just accepted that, most everybody does. And he lived and died a chicken, for that’s what he thought he was.