We all have the best of intentions when it comes to our students. We want our students to be self-motivated. We want to create warm, supportive, and collaborative learning environments. We want students to grow in their capacity to be responsible, kind, and ethical. And yet…we may find ourselves in language habits that actually undermine many of these (and other) positive goals for students.
“I like the way Mark is sitting so quietly!” is meant to make Mark feel good and promote positive behavior among his classmates. In fact, it may create resentment towards Mark and make others feel devalued. “Wow! You did that math problem so quickly! You’re so smart!” is meant to reinforce and boost confidence, but it likely puts students in a fixed mindset and reduces their chance of taking on challenges or taking risks in math. Although we want our students to feel ownership of their work, we may say things like, “Here are the three things I’ll be looking for in this next project,” or “Here’s what you’re going to do for me next.” Each of these statements actually emphasizes teacher ownership of work.
So, what should we say? That’s what this workshop is all about!