A girl and her cat take on the world with nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book and enough dreams to fill the universe.
Words are everywhere. We read them. We write them. We speak them. We hear them. They permeate almost every single part of our existence. We even think in words. Words have enormous power. War. Hate. Peace. Love. Words are our ideas and our hopes and our dreams. With this much power, I don’t feel like any of us really watch what we say. We may edit and perfect our written words, but we can’t do that when we open our mouths. We don’t watch our own spoken words. What seeds are we sowing? What ideas are we promoting? Which of our prejudices is visible? Who are we including? What are we saying?These questions have been on my mind a lot lately. I have been reading a lot of professional development books lately and in one of them, the teacher recounts an event where she said some small, inconsequential comment to a student and changed that student’s life for the better. That student’s parent came to the teacher with tears in their eyes the change was so great. The teacher didn’t even remember saying it. What about the other comments? she asked herself. The ones that did the opposite. Our words have power and our students are listening to everything we say. What are we saying?I am struggling with this in my block class. We have a new teacher and we have been listening. We are hearing that she thinks she is better than us. My math teacher friends are hearing that they are horrible people. We are hearing that the only way to teach reading is her way. We are hearing that we are doing a disservice to our students and that we cannot possibly understand how hard it is to be an elementary school teacher. We are hearing that already we have failed. We are hearing that our ideas do not count. I don’t think she realizes what has happened because none of us are listening anymore. None of us want to hear that over-used phrase “No offense, but…” We are frustrated to the point where we drop our budding professionalism and quote the new teacher in mocking ways in front of a more experienced teacher. We do not watch our own words. What are we saying? How can I avoid this? I want all of my students to know that I respect them and that I value every word they say. I want them to share their burgeoning ideas with me. I want them to be able to share them with each other. I want a classroom culture of listening and validation of the words that are coming out of our mouths. I do not want to indoctrinate. I do not want to press my ideas on my students. I want them to know that no idea is too wild and that they have voices that are worth listening to. The first step in making a difference is knowing that you have the power to create change. Our words give us that. Yet, I hear myself sometimes and I am worried about what I hear. I do not say “What a wonderful question!” when a little girl is trying to be silly and writes “Why does the word hi mean hi?” I say “I would like a serious question.” I have no real good reason why I said that. I wanted her on task and her question was off topic. Why does hi mean hi? Why didn’t I answer that question? And why did I respond to it the way I did? What am I saying?The question I pose to all of you is: how do we move forward? How do we make our words count for the things that we want them to count for? Let’s start listening to ourselves. Let’s find out what we are saying.
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No One Here But a Writer Who Gets Up and Try
Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller
Psychological, thriller, mystery, secrets, betrayal, adoption, romance, poetry, art
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Stefan Falke photographs artists who live and work along the 2000 miles long U.S.- Mexico border to document the vibrant culture of the region on both sides. All photos © Stefan Falke (use with written permission by the author only)