Things We Regret Saying

14 Nov

Intelligence-Stvenson

When I was a new teacher I occasionally said things to students that I later regretted. In the last few years, I have witnessed or heard teachers say additional regretful things to students. I must admit I still do it. Don’t we all.
1. “You have potential but don’t use it.”
Students feel insulted when they hear this, and while some accept it as a challenge to do better, more lose their motivation to care. Instead, say in a caring way, “How can I help you reach your full potential?”
2. “I’m disappointed in you.”
Of course we occasionally are disappointed in things that our students do. In addition, the result of openly expressing that disappointment depends as much on the way we say it as the words we use. But students have told me that they hate hearing a teacher say this. The problem with this saying is that it looks to the past. The alternative might be more like, “What do you think you can do to make a more helpful decision the next time you are in a similar situation?”
3. “What did you say?”
This is the challenge that some teachers might throw down when walking away from a student after a private discussion about behavior and hearing that student whisper something. “What did you say?” is just bait for escalation. Do you really want to know what was whispered? It’s better to ignore that unheard comeback and move on. You don’t always need to have the last word.
4. “It’s against the rules.”
What? Yes I have said this!!!!!! Think of the progress that would not have been made if we all kept to the rules.  Often there are many behaviours from which people can choose in order to solve a problem. Some may be within the rules. Try saying this instead: “Let me see if there’s a way to meet your need within the rules.”
5. “Your brother/sister was better than you.”
Never compare siblings or anyone else in a positive or negative way about anything. Comparisons can only lead to trouble regardless of which side of the coin the student is.

Perhaps we can all think not only as teachers before we speak next.

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