California Educator

October/November 2021

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Page 47 of 55

"Saying 'We really missed you yesterday' signals that you thought about the student when they weren't there and underscores they are a valuable contributor to the classroom community." Things to Say to Create a Supportive Classroom Build a lasting foundation for success with these teacher-tested expressions By Stephen Merrill T H E R E ' S N O W A Y for a teacher to get through a whole school year without blurting out the wrong thing a few times. Difficult mornings sometimes become insufferable afternoons, and kids of all ages know how to press adults' buttons. When you do slip up, extend yourself some grace. e good news? You can prepare to be supportive, and even practice before you step into the classroom. "One of the hardest things I had to do was learn how to change my 'teacher' language so that I could encourage and empower students on a daily basis," confides sixth grade teacher Alyssa Nucaro. In time, she concluded: "Using powerful and effective teacher language takes a lot of practice and awareness." For professor of English education and former elementary and secondary teacher Todd Finley, being mindful about supportive language means surveying students about how they like to receive praise. Do they prefer "receiving acknowledgments via private or public oral communi- cation? Do they want personal notes or notes home?" Finley even recommends that teachers keep track of who has received positive feedback: "Chart who you've praised so you can spread the love evenly," he says. Being intentional and reflective about the way you deploy language is the key. Start by imagin- ing common classroom scenarios that call for the thoughtful use of language — delivering hard feedback after considerable student effort, for example, or discussing academic or behavioral struggles — and walk through your responses mentally to make sure you hit the right notes. To find more advice on the productive use of language, we combed through teacher comments and articles by experienced educators to identify phrases that empower learners and create a supportive environment. 7 46 Teaching & Learning

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