Encouraging Words

As a marathoner, I often think about the connections between my challenges as a runner and those of elementary school students. In both arenas, when the going gets tough—whether it’s at that 20-mile mark of a marathon or with learning to read—getting encouragement at just the right moment can make all the difference.

I’ll always remember how much having people cheering me on helped me when I ran my first marathon in Boston. To this day I still have a pair of “magic” sticks that two little girls were handing out to runners at mile 20. I framed those sticks. I still believe they really were magic—after all, they helped me finish my first marathon.

Similarly, a colleague of mine, Cindy Kruse, wrote on her blog about the extraordinary power of cheering on her daughter and son-in-law when they ran in the Philadelphia marathon and makes this connection to her work as an educator:

“Imagine what we can accomplish if we (teachers) would adopt this attitude in the classroom—commit to being our students’ biggest fans, notice how hard they are working—even when they aren’t our own students, cheer them when the going gets tough, even running alongside them to bring them to the finish line . . .”

Reading this, I thought about all the times I needed encouraging words to push through a difficult task and how, at times, those words came from unexpected parties. Having support from family or friends will help you achieve much, but hearing encouraging words from people you don’t know well can be even more powerful and revive your belief that you can accomplish anything you want.

As Cindy mentions, adopting the philosophy of encouraging all students in school—whether they’re in our class or several grades away—can help children achieve more and feel more successful. And when teachers use encouraging language with students and each other, students will start using that language too. In this way, encouragement and positive reinforcing language can actually transform the climate of a school!

What’s an example of a time when your encouragement helped a student? Or when someone else’s encouraging words helped you?

The Power of Our Words: Teacher Language That Helps Children Learn, shows how you can use words, tone, and pacing to build a classroom where students feel safe, respected, appreciated, and excited about learning.

Sarah Fillion is a Responsive Classroom professional development designer.

Tags: Encouragement