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16 February 2005: Name Calling (2 of 4)

I have a colleague who very intentionally does not call her students kids. Her belief, if you were to ask her, is that the term "kids" is belittling to her students because it makes them less than individuals. Her preferred language is "young people."

When she refers to her students as young people, the intention is to affirm their humanity, their ability, and their value.

I know that seems like an unbearably deep reading of a common term of affection for our students, but really, the point to be made is that we should not take for granted the language we use with our students. All language is biased. There are connotations, societal values, and all manner of hidden baggage that accompany our word choice, whether we chose to acknowledge it or not.

As another example, imagine what would be the difference between calling your class "class", and calling them "students"? May seem minor, but in the end "class" emphasizes their situation of being taught (and probably their passivity in that process), while "students" affirms each students' individuality, their participation and their responsibility.

I'm not even going to touch "boys and girls." I'm not saying it's wrong, I'm just advocating that if that's something that you use to address your students regularly, you should think about what values you may be advocating--whether purposefully or not.

teaching quote of the day

Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.

- Chinese proverb

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