When we’re adults, we tend to define ourselves by our professions. “I’m a nurse.” “I’m an insurance agent.” “I’m a teacher.” But what about when we were children? I never recall saying, “I’m a student” unless it was to get a discount at the movies. But as children we are defined by how adults see us. We believe what we are repeatedly told.
Of course, there are students we can’t say enough good things about like the kids who are hard-working, helpful, or obedient. But then there are others who are bossy, inconsiderate, and loud. It can be quite a challenge to turn their negative actions and unusual quirks into positive words. For them we must be extra intentional.
And that leads to one more way you are important. Every day you help students realize who they are.
Take Victor who regularly makes sarcastic remarks. While the comments are irritating, his strength is getting people to laugh. Maybe someday he’ll be a comedian. Encourage him to write riddles and jokes. Give him a platform for sharing them (after you’ve read and approved them first). Tell him, “You are funny, and you have a talent for helping people see the humor in situations.”
Or take Bella who is on-task but never speaks aloud in class. Maybe she’s a deep thinker. Give her a notebook and ask her to journal her thoughts. Tell her you’ve noticed that she thinks before she speaks and has tremendous self-control. Tell her how much the world needs that and ask her to share some of it with the class.
Or consider Tyrique, whose bossiness gets him into trouble several times a day. He may be a natural leader. Give him something to supervise so he can put his leadership skills to good use. Then tell him what a fine job he did.
Sometimes we fall prey to defining students by their actions and habits rather than by their talents. It takes courage to compliment the child who constantly interrupts, the one who rarely speaks or the kid who seems to know it all. But those kids need to hear your definitions of them most of all. What words do you hear yourself using to describe them? Who will you define today?