Miscellaneous Ramblings

by Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller


1. Tell your students, "Today is standardized test day. When you come to a question you don't know, leave it blank. I know you have previously been told to eliminate the two answers you are sure are incorrect and guess concerning the remaining two. Please do not do that. If you guess and get it right I will not know that you don't know how to do that one and need more help with it. The real purpose of testing is to help me know what you know and what you don't know so I can adjust my teaching accordingly."

This Teacher Talk flies in the face of others who want students to create as many correct answers as possible. Their goal is not about helping children learn. It is about making the school look good. Resist that temptation and return to the real purpose of testing−to adjust teaching accordingly.

2. Teach students to replace but with and. "But" is generally used as a connector or to contrast two parts of a sentence.

"I want to make the basketball team but the other people are taller than I am."
"I want to take Spanish, but it conflicts with art."

"But" separates ideas. It divides and creates distance. It leads to either/or thinking. It helps us see the two parts of the sentence as mutually exclusive.

By replacing but with and you use language in a way that combines ideas rather than separates:

"I want to make the basketball team and the other people are taller than I am." "I want to take Spanish, and it conflicts with art."

And helps us see the whole picture. But implies restriction and generates a ready-made excuse. It weakens the desire by connecting it to a limiting factor. With and the wanting remains strong and we are more likely to perceive possibilities and take positive action.

3. Tell your students, "Good cause and effect," before they take a test. Prior to the volleyball game wish them, "Good cause and effect."

"Good cause and effect," is a phrase to replace, "Good luck." Using the Language of Luck communicates that something other than preparation, practice and effort is in charge of the outcome. Assigning students' success in athletics, school or life to luck is a way of discounting the role they play in their success or lack of it. It diminishes their personal power. It encourages them to see themselves as at the mercy of fate or fortune.

Do you want students to attribute responsibility to themselves or to luck? Your language patterns point them in one of those directions.

4. "Tell me what you are for, Letosha," is a valuable response to "I'm against bullying."

Being against something and fighting to eliminate it strengthens the resolve of the other side. What we resist, persists. That's about as effective as pushing against a river. Using your efforts to create the world you desire is more effective. Teach students to be against nothing. Teach them to be for creating their vision of a healthier world.

5. Teach students to make Boomerang Statements. Boomerang Statements are verbal responses that students can use to turn around the negative energy sent their way through put-downs, criticism, sarcasm, or accusation, turning it into positive energy. Boomerang Statements are used by students to re-mind themselves that what they think or believe is more important than the taunt or put-down. They help the student to not take offense and send a communication back to the sender that is free of negative energy.

If the initial statement is "Girls can't throw very well," the Boomerang Statement could be, "There is a woman's softball team that competes in the Olympics." A comment such as, "You made a stupid mistake" can be turned around with "I learn from every mistake I make and it makes me a better person."

6. When you see a student appearing to go backwards with behavior, attitude, effort or accomplishments tell them what you see. Say, "I see you appear to be taking some steps back with . . . When I see students doing that I assume they are gathering energy to make a big leap forward. I am telling you this because I believe in you."


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