1. What role does school play in building students’ agency and identity?
The school is the community that our students spend most of their time in and it is the place where they learn some if not many of the social skills that they need to be successful in life. The keywords in this last statement are successful and social skills. One way we develop identity is through the social interactions we have and the school is the place where many of those interactions happen and where we learn the social skills that help us work through those interactions. The other key word in that statement is successful, which relates to agency and how we as teachers, staff and school community can create an atmosphere where students believe in their ability to be successful, not to always succeed but to be successful. This is the role the school plays in building students’ agency and identity, we create the structure where students can learn or not learn these.
2. How aware are you and your colleagues of the impact our choice of words have on developing students’ agency and identity? Can you give examples?
As I look back, I have discovered that I was not fully aware of the words I said and how that I say impacted my students. Does that not mean that the words that were coming out of my mouth were in any way taking away from the development of my students’ agency and identity. For example, last year and every year since I have taught I have done an end of break little monologue with my students. In this monologue I include things such as why I am proud of my students, how I see each and every one of them and what I hope to see when I come back from break or what I hope to see when I hear about them in the future. In all honesty, I do this because I think my kids, which is what I call my students, are very special to me and they deserve a teacher who believes in them as much as I see them believe in me. A specific example I have said to my students many times is that I don’t care if they get an A or B, that what I notice and makes me proud to be their teacher is how hard they work to get that grade.
3. What would you do, if anything, to make using choice words a more conscious and accountable school-wide practice if you were the school, leader?
If I were the school leader I would create a list (with students and staff) of 5-10 words that we would use to communicate with each other. I would rotate these words throughout the year and expect these words to become part of the school culture. I am thinking words such as proud, successful, impressive or determined. I would ask the staff to use these words with the students during their lessons to promote the use of agency and identity.
4. What could you do, if anything, to make the use of choice words a more conscious and accountable personal practice as well as one embraced by others on your site? Are those things within your sphere of influence?
As a school leader right now I can bring this particular pillar to my staff by asking them to reflect on the words they currently use to communicate with their students. I can also create a small professional development on this pillar and how we as teachers are responsible for creating agency and identity for our students.
As far as my own choice words are concerned when interacting with staff and students I can do create a list of positive and agency/identity building words that I can carry with me and review during the day to use with the school I work with. I know this is something that will allow me to become more conscious about the words I use because they will be available for me to see and review daily which will make them part of my daily life and become a habit.
5. Commit to 5 things you are willing to do this semester that will make your school choose words wisely?
1. Create a PD on choice words
2. Create a list of choice words for me
3. Review and practice the use of these choice words every day
4. Discuss the use of choice words with students and staff on a one on one basis
5. Be actively engaged of the use of choice words during admin meetings