The kind of language used by teachers shapes learners. It affects students’ sense of identity –so a student who loves to sing but is not really great at it, is not pushed to the back row but is talked to by the teacher who says “I know you love to sing. Would you like to learn more about it? I have some ideas.” Such words support the student’s budding identity as one who loves to sing and is learning singing skills. Also, positive language helps students understand how they work and play – so a teacher might comment on a student’s writing by pointing out the use of juicy adjectives by the student to describe a character. This helps to inform the writer of an important strength in his/her writing and encourages them to build on that strength. Furthermore, positive language influences our relationships with students – so a student found arguing with a classmate during lunch break, is not asked to sit out but is asked “Can you help me understand what happened from your point of view?” A relationship based on trust is thus formed rather than one based on teacher threats and student defensiveness.
Teachers use language – words and tone that display faith in student intentions, showing students that they believe in them. Using positive words and encouraging students to meet expectations allows students an opportunity to fulfill those expectations, or even surpass them. Communicating to students that they believe in them and their abilities gives students the confidence they need to collaborate with others, become respectful listeners, and work competently by reiterating positive behaviors and encouraging all students to do the same. For instance, a student who runs up and down the stairs is gently reminded with “I know you remember the essential agreement and I appreciate you trying to be safe.” This conveys to students that the teachers have faith that they’re trying to be cooperative in school, while they’re also enforcing the agreed upon rule.