Think before you speak!

Posted on January 14th, 2019

Now you’ve put farter!

I know times have changed and teachers don’t make fun of children like they used to! But we need to be so careful about the way we talk to the children we work with.

An off the cuff comment can have a lasting effect on a child’s confidence.

Probably 35(ish) years ago a teacher made fun of my spelling in front of the class. When we were creating a piece of work for the wall, we have to write it in pencil, then the teacher would correct any mistakes and we could then write over the top in pen. Illustrate it and mount it ready to be displayed.

We must have been doing a project on Artic animals and I had written about how the male penguin would carry the egg on his feet. As a child I lived in fear of getting told off at school because I didn’t want to upset my parents. My dad (especially) was my idol and I did everything I could to impress him.

I wrote my piece of work, showed it to the teacher who pointed something out that needed correcting then set about going over the text in my very best handwriting.

Once complete I proudly went and stood by the teacher waiting for the pat on the back, I would have worked so hard to achieve.

She took it from me and after a moment of glancing at it said at the top of her voice: “Now you’ve put farter! You’re not as clever as your brother, are you?”

An off the cuff comment can have a lasting effect

When a teacher says a word like farter in a primary school you are guaranteed a classroom of giggles. If the ground could have swallowed me up, I would have been so grateful. Instead I had the double whammy of being accused of saying farter (when I was 8 I thought fart was bad language…) and the world (or so it felt) knowing I wasn’t as clever as my brother (with the benefit of hindsight I can appreciate that not many people are, he was running the school computer club and writing programs for his ZX spectrum at a similar age…) but at the time this was the end of my world.

The teacher carried on with whatever she needed to do and had probably forgotten about the whole incident 2 seconds later. However, 30+ years later I can still live that day like it was yesterday. I have never had any doubt that I am not as clever as my brother and my confidence has probably suffered as a consequence.

What’s the point of this?

What this (with the benefit of time) has also taught me is that we need to be careful of what we say when working with children. An off the comment to us as an adult is quickly forgotten, that same comment can deeply hurt a child’s self-belief.

An off the cuff comment can have a lasting effect on a child. As an adult we need to think before we speak

The phrase: “engage your brain before engaging your mouth” is so true. “Think before you speak”. If we all did this maybe it go just a small way in boosting children’s self esteem and mental health.

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