"I was just kidding."

by Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller


Occasionally, before one of our workshops, we hear participants jokingly putting each other down. This is more likely to occur when participants are from the same school or know each other well. While fixing coffee or signing in, they spar with each other verbally.

“You slopped the coffee all over. A bit uncoordinated today, eh?”

“So you got here on time. Did your mother wake you up or set the alarm for you?”

“Do you expect someone to read that name tag? You need to work on your penmanship.”

This fun-poking style of beginning the day seems innocent enough at first glance. It appears to be a light-hearted teasing that flows with equal measures of give and take. Beneath this “affectionate name-calling,” however, is a serious situation that is harmful to both the judger and the one being judged.

Putdowns are destructive. Yes, even if you were just kidding. Affectionate name-calling does not exist. The words of jest are nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to put another person down. Both the sender and the receiver are fully aware that the statement contains a bit of truth. This occurs whether the Teacher Talk is directed at students or at colleagues.

This is harmful to the judger because she perpetuates her judgmental mindset that keeps her locked in judgmental thinking. It is also harmful to the person being judged because the subconscious mind does not recognize a joke. The subconscious mind operates simply as a recording device. It records what is spoken or thought. The subconscious mind does not categorize put-downs into two piles, those that are jokes and those that are not. Regardless of its intention, the message is faithfully recorded.

Instead of delivering a humor-intended put-down, use the opportunity to step away from judgment. Move toward Teacher Talk that affirms and uplifts. When you catch yourself forming a put-down in your mind, or hear yourself deliver one aloud: Stop!  Instead, choose Teacher Talk that compliments. Tell your colleague you are happy to see her, you are glad she is here this morning, or that you hope you get to work with her this morning. Share an appreciation. Tell her something that had a positive and important effect on your life or your classroom.  Or, just remain silent.

Resist the desire to be cute and clever with a put-down, even one that is designed to get a big laugh. Cultivate the habit of thinking positive thoughts and using positive, uplifting, affirming language. Put The Teacher Talk Advantage to use in your own professional life for the good of all concerned.

Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the coauthors of The Teacher Talk Advantage: Five Voices of Effective Teaching. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for educators and another for parents. To sign up for the newsletters or learn more about the seminars they offer teachers and parents, visit their websites today: www.chickmoorman.com and www.thomashaller.com


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