Some time ago I received a wonderful note from my sister-in-law, Diana. My brother Nick and his wife Diana were expecting their third son in the fall. Diana wrote to ask my opinion on some baby names they were considering. She could have done just that – ask my opinion, but she did more. She wrote to tell me that she remembered the advice I had given her three years ago about naming their second son. She even dug up the email from three years ago and quoted my own words.
“I liked what you said and explained our thoughts better than we could!”
What she really did was make me feel like my opinion mattered to her. So of course, I went on a baby name search rampage and sent her an entire dissertation of baby names with commentary.
Our words matter. I think this is one of the most important lessons we learn as human beings. We may not realize it, but a few simple words have the power to encourage, inspire, and delight. Knowing my words mattered to Diana motivated me to put additional effort and heart into my response. The same is true in our classrooms.
Want to motivate your students? Make sure they know their words matter to you. But what does this look like, practically speaking? Well, there are a number of simple exercises you can practice in your classroom (be it in-person or virtual), and thankfully you wont need to wait three years to reap the same benefits as my sister-in-law.
Consider trying some of the following:
- Repeat something one of your students said last week.
- Put a quote from one of your students on a bulletin board.
- Start a quote book for your class. They can be inspiring, thoughtful, or just funny!
- Write a letter to your students referencing something they’ve discussed with you.
- Start a reflection journal and share your thoughts and wonderings with your students.
Take note of the words your students use. Remember them and recirculate them when the time is right. For many students, it will demonstrate that their words matter, and it will inspire them to share their thoughts more freely. Chances are for at least one of them, it may be the encouraging word they need to show them that they truly matter.