Each year I’ve required students to write at least weekly about something they have been reading. At first the students’ letters go something like this:
Dear Mrs. Bisson,
I read Arthur’s Teacher Trouble. It was really funny.
No matter how pushed I am for time I generally manage to write back and so our written conversations sometimes morph into writings that are less about reading and more about what is going on in a student’s life. However, as the school year progresses, I do get the students to write a bit more insightfully — or at least to offer some support to their reading opinions. When the changeover happens, it is a proud moment for me: my students are arriving as readers and writers.
Last week one of my students wrote an outstanding critique of a book she had been reading and she wrote reasons for the character’s behavioral changes throughout the book. In my reply, I happened to mention how proud I was of the student’s response — and wrote those exact words to her. It was purely serendipitous that I expressed this idea; the student is quite bright and surely must have heard accolades previously.
The student’s reply to me today points to the power of our words — the student circled the words “I am so proud of your thinking” and then highlighted those words with exclamation marks. In her reply, my student revealed that no one had ever told her this before. She revealed that the words made her feel good about herself.
I have no way of knowing how this tiny moment in my student’s academic life may influence her, but I am hopeful that she will continue to build her self esteem and positive learning attitude well beyond the 180 days she spends with me in our classroom community.
Once again, I am struck by how powerful and influential a teacher’s words can be on students. This time the comments were by chance; in the future I hope to make such powerful words more intentional.