As teachers, our awareness exceeds words like the aforementioned, though. We pick and choose our words in every moment of our professional lives, especially with two specific groups: students and parents. With students, we know our words can help, hurt, mislead, misinform, sway, or encourage. Whether we're complimenting a student on her work or criticizing another's, we must always be thoughtful. With parents, this thoughtfulness is just as, if not more, important.
We get a student for a year, maybe, if looping is still done, two. Parents have had that child for six, ten, fifteen years. Seems obvious, but sometimes we talk as if we know a child better than his parents do. I recently advised a colleague who was struggling with some parents that, like customers, parents are always right. They are, and it behooves us to think in this mindset as we work with them. Do we see things the parent might not? Yes. Are we aware of issues that a parent might be ignoring or denying? Of course. Are we experts in our field who can offer strategies and solutions that parents don't know about? Certainly. But conveying all that we know and believe is a game, just as any kind of communication is a game. And our tactics for winning the game must be thoughtfulness and proper word choice. Our words must always reflect our genuine concern; they must be authentic, supportive, and clear.
Every so often, a list of "Report Card Comments We Wish We Could Use" or some kind of Teacher Jokes list makes the rounds. In the laughs and pointed comments of some teachers we can see real resentment. Some of us simply chuckle. I wish we all found the material offensive, though, because it is. My colleagues might argue that these jokes are a way to ease frustration and to commiserate. Perhaps. But they're still at the expense of our students and parents. And since they're not anything we'd share with either of those groups, I'd suggest that they're not jokes at all.
Some will call me overly sensitive or politically correct. I'll take either as a compliment, literally.