“Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall.” (Jodi Picoult)
Words hold a deep power. We can encourage, teach, comfort, share, and create with words. If we let them, words can also belittle, deflate, hurt, and shame. With this power of words, comes a great responsibility to choose our words cautiously and to use them with respect. I believe this to be especially true of educators. As educators, we have a great influence over children, parents, and each other. We need to be mindfulness of this influence and how the words we speak shape our influence.
When the school year started this year, I was astounded by the amount of posts that were popping up with the theme "what teachers wish that parents knew". I was more astounded by the largely negative tone these posts took. Earlier this month, I was engaged in a discussion on the appropriateness or not of homework in kindergarden and was again confronted by the use of very negative descriptions of parents.
Words matter. Even when written down and you think that certain people won't see them, words still matter. They matter because when said out loud or written on paper they are given life. And that life makes them true to the speaker (writer) and to those who the words were directed at. Even if that person never hears or sees the words. Think about that for a minute. By using derogatory words to talk about a parent or parents as a whole, even if the parents don't hear or read the words, you are making them true in your mind. This is because words are an expression of our thoughts, otherwise they wouldn't be needed.
Everything that it said and written about parents becomes true in our minds. So if you are writing that parents are clueless and lazy, this representation of them becomes true to you. Once it becomes true, it becomes impossible to act as though it is not true. This means you start to teach and behave in ways that are not respectful of parents. And from this the children learn that you don't like them. Because, to a child, they are their parents. Whether you intend to or not, when you use hurtful and demeaning words to talk about parents, you are being hurtful and demeaning to the children.
And then what happens to the positive relationships? They begin to disappear. And without relationships, there cannot be learning. This is the power of words. Words can create or destroy relationships and in turn encourage or dismiss learning.
So let us remember that the child is part of the parent. Let us remember that it is our job to build strong relationships with both the child and the parent. Let us remember to be mindful of the words we use.