Monday, October 22, 2012
Is It Something I Said?: What We Say...What They Hear!
I received an email from a parent the other day. It wasn't a hostile email. It was written in a polite tone. It was just a parent trying to find out what was going on in my classroom regarding his daughter. If this happened with my kids, I probably would have written an email like it as well. I also really appreciated the fact that this parent sent the email to me, instead of going straight to my principal.
The email went something like this: "K" was very upset last night. She told her mother that you said to her "I don't know how you passed fourth grade. Can you tell me why you would say this?"
Well,when I read this email, my jaw dropped, and I immediately responded to the Dad.(I know you're supposed to wait, but I wasn't angry) I told him I would love to have a face to face conference because this was the second time his daughter told them something that was not true. But more than that, I wanted these parents, who are wonderful, supportive, parents, to be able to look me in the face, as I told them that those words never, ever, came out of my mouth.
Later in the day, I pulled the child aside and asked her about it. She said, "Remember when you were helping me? You said, "I don't know how you ever passed fourth grade!" Now, I know there are teachers who say this, and worse, to their students. And, I don't want you to believe that I am some kind of teacher saint. But, I would never, ever, say that to a child. Ever. That kind of teacher, I am not.
But, she believed I said it. She is new, so at the time I was helping her, maybe I asked if they taught that concept in the 4th grade, or something to that effect, but..anyway....it really bothered me.
Later in the week, I took another a student aside and had the "You need to get organized" talk with him. I explained to him that he is going to middle school and he needs to be organized because he will switch classes in middle school. I helped him set up his materials and was satisfied with what we had accomplished in getting him together.
As we left for the day, something made me think of the student I mentioned in the beginning of this post and I took the "disorganized" student aside. I said, "Do you understand what I was saying to you earlier?" He replied, "Yes." I said, "What did I say?" He replied, "If I don't get organized, I am never going to get anywhere."
Wow! Needless to say, I had to have a quick talk to get rid of that misconception! What I said, and what he heard were two different things. I was talking about middle school, and he took it as a life lesson, and a negative one at that.
I realize I have to be very careful with the words I choose with my students. And more than that, I need to make sure that we are on the same page. I will make sure that my students understand the true meaning of what I am saying to them, and don't take my words the wrong way. It's like that game of telephone where the message gets misconstrued along the way. I don't want that in my classroom, I want a clear and open line, where they hear what I say, and understand what I mean.