Last year a teacher shared a touching blog post about not asking how your summer was as many of her students did not have those story worthy summers. It struck a cord but I never really thought as I wasn’t teaching in a classroom and didn’t have a homeroom. I smiled while my students worked on their independent modules in my office told me about their summers and the things they’ve done. The year before I didn’t even have independent workers in my office, and another year further back, I simply forgot because I was too excited to share all of my activities I had planned. The gravitas of the question never really hit me until this year when we started our year with a reminder about how unique the lives of each of our students might be.
This year I bought the book The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and I re-read that post from last year and I cried. I cried because I know that my students don’t have the kind of holidays that I had at their age. I cried because my students tell me how the school is their favourite place. I cried because for so long I asked: “How was your weekend/Christmas/break?” when I now know that wasn’t the question that needed to be asked.
This past year I stopped asking my kids “how was your [insert whatever time frame]?” and now ask “Is there something you’d like to share with the class?”. One of my kids shared a joke each week, another told me a useless fact (Did you know the difference between graveyards and cemeteries are that graveyards are attached to churches and cemeteries are standalone plots of land? I sure didn’t!) Some kids chose to share about their weekends, other told their classmates something new and some never did participate.
I talk about choosing my words carefully because this isn’t the only time I have had to look back on the words I chose to say to my kids. A while back I wrote about how a student told me I had to stop making things personal. Sometimes I forget the importance of how my words affect the classroom.
This year my goal is to remove the phrase “you guys” from my vocabulary. A friend of mine is writing their thesis about feminism and linguistics and send me an interesting article from The Atlantic about how American English needs “Y’all”. While I can’t say that “Y’all” is going to be my new term, I can say that I realized language affect every person differently. Maybe this year I can be just slightly more cognizant of the words I choose with my students.