Shattered Dreams by the Power of Words
A young innocent child with a vision of becoming president has his dream crushed by a teacher’s choice of words. Big brown eyes that were once filled with hope and dreams are thus filled with despair and doubt. Words that turned a child’s life dark. The child shared, “Why are you wasting your time with me. I am dumb.” A mother, who once trusted public education, explains, “My child stopped trying when he was told by teacher that he had to learn how to work with hands because he was not smart enough to go to college.” Simple words from authority turned a child’s fate. Choice Words, Chapter 1: The Language of Influence in Teaching, by Peter Johnson explains how the content of words can create a safe environment for students; the environment can enable a student to feel motivated and engaged.
When I was a child, I had my dreams crushed in high school. I found my inner strength by the support and direction of Mr. Ravioglioli. Mr. Ravioglioli was a teacher who took time to show his students that he cared. Mr. Ravioglioli, a law enforcement teacher in high school, took it upon himself to help me believe in myself as a person, as a student, and as a member of society. Mr. Ravioglioli did not isolate his instruction only to curriculum, but expanded it to include student discussion. Through student discussion, the students created a safe learning environment in which we could share. Mr. Ravioglioli taught me to validate student’s feelings but also to help students to believe in their potential. As my hero, I have always valued the memory of Mr. Ravioglioli modelling a teacher’s commitment to address student’s affective needs.
Mr. Ravioglioli’s influence has helped me to build-up students with shattered dreams. I have committed myself to use positive reinforcement and engagement to help students to believe in themselves. During the last three months, I have been working with the student who was told he was dumb. The student initially reacted with anger, and he even accused me of being “like all the others.” When I asked to clarify “others” he said, “You are going to give up on me!” I set a challenge with the student that I would mirror the same effort he demonstrated in class, in his relationships with friends, and with his loved ones. He agreed, and we sealed the partnership with a pinkie promise. The journey of acceptance by the young man has been filled with moments of insecurity and fear on both our parts. When I get frustrated, I remind the student of our pinkie promise. I am honest with the student about my feelings. I label his actions and ask him to explain how his actions affect others. Through our journey of bumps and bruises, the student has started working hard to pass his tests and achieve points in the school reading program. He now walks into class standing tall and with a smile.
The power of words can help a student to focus in school or to give-up. Johnson use Vygotsky’s theory to justify how intelligence is constructed most naturally in a safe place. Through social interaction and the use of words as tools to teach our students, students can learn to self-regulated their own motivation and engagement.