Let’s face it, the words and language we use in our classrooms, hallways, and on social media impact our students more than we will ever know. I am often frustrated when I hear someone say, “I’m not good at art.” What I think they are implying is that they’re not good at drawing. However, drawing is such a small percentage of the world of art. Art encompasses a great deal of expressive media. Not only that, but art is often a cumulative process. When we make art, the process is just as important as the end product. Artists are constantly learning, growing, and experimenting. Artists take risks and often fail. What is essential to these failures is the learning that accompanies them and the perseverance to continue.
But what do these, “I’m not good at ________.” statements really mean? What do they mean to our students? Does it mean that we have given up completely on educating ourselves in these areas that are difficult for us? Why can’t we use sentences like, “I’m not good at art, until I practice.” Or better yet just don’t say it at all. I believe that these negative statements do more harm than good. We must all model the behavior of being lifelong learners for our students. Showing them that we have strengths and weaknesses in certain areas and admitting to vulnerabilities is important. Admitting defeat and claiming weakness in one subject area without putting in the effort is the worst thing we can do for our students.
So what can we do? We can lean on each other. We can ask each other questions, especially in front of our students. We can work together as a team just as they will when they will head out into the real world. We cannot function as a Jack-of-all-trades but we can rely on each other and share information and work collaboratively. I am not the strongest mathematician. When I have a question I ask a student or even another teacher for some help so that my information is correct. Modeling this behavior and allowing our students to see that they are learning in a cooperative and collaborative environment can only encourage the same among peers. It is important to keep in mind that some students work best in a group environment and some are more comfortable in an individual work environment. Both of these are examples of ways that they may continue to work both in college and once they have found a career.
Let’s all listen to each other and to ourselves and be conscious of what we say and the way we say it. Whether you think they are or not, students are listening. They may be reminded of what you said, tomorrow or years from now, so choose your words wisely.