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It’s All in How you Word It

Buy-In Is Easier Than You Think

I have been guilty of it.

It’s not about doing more, and working harder, it’s about working smarter. Looking back on countless moments working with students, I now realize there are so many different ways I could have asked for desired behaviors. It is important to teach responsibly, as well as be honest about the behavior you wish to see. However, there is more than one way to ask for what you want to see. While the way I talk to students has always been appropriate, necessary, and respectful, it has not always produced the buy-in that was possible.

Why I Haven’t Always Picked The Better Way of Speaking

Until specific phrases become a habit, the first thing that might come out of our mouths is not always what we would choose. Being intentional by having phrases ready to use will help certain talk become part of regular conversation. Sometimes it is not possible to think through the “best and nicest way” to phrase something on the spot. However, by trying to be intentional about selecting words that empower students, buy-in becomes a lot easier. 

Here are a number of ways to make small changes to everyday conversations.

Instead of saying This:

Say This:

We are going to begin our next unit. 

Imagine this: You are transported back in time, and the year is 1935.  

Why won’t don’t you do your work? 

What do you need to get started?

Stop talking

I would love for you to keep talking.  However,iIt is important that _______.  

You should get started on your assignment. 

Why don’t you answer all of the even questions first. 

Sit down right now. 

Will you please take your seat? 

Why aren’t you motivated to work? 

What inspires you? 

We have a test near the end of the week. 

Would it work better for me to give the test on a Thursday or Friday this week? (If it is possible to choose the day)

There are three assignments to do today. Get to work. 

Which assignment would you like to do first? There are three to pick from.

Stop using your phone. 

The good news is that putting your phone away now allows you the opportunity to use it during the designated phone time in class. 

Does anyone have any questions? 

What questions do you have? 

Where is your book?

Do you need to borrow a novel, or did you bring yours? 

Why aren’t you prepared for class? 

I have noticed that you do not have a pencil, how can I help you to be better prepared for tomorrow? 

Do 10 of the 15 questions. 

Which five questions are you choosing to skip?

Do not line up at the door. 

I appreciate you waiting in class for the end of the hour, and It would really help me if you were able to stand over here instead. 

Why do you always ask to use the bathroom at this time? 

I really want you to be part of what we are doing. Is it possible for you to use the restroom between classes or during lunch?  

You have 30 missing assignments.

You have completed 10 assignments and have an opportunity to finish a few more.

Check your grades and stay up on your assignments. 

With great power comes great responsibility. With the click of a few buttons, you have incredible access to a lot of information. Use it wisely and make sure you are getting credit for what you have done.  

Follow Words with Actions

Don’t just say mental health is important. Instead, send students a google form and ask them how they are doing, and what you can do to make their week easier. Or, if you say that you value the last five minutes of class, have students engaged in something that shows the time is significant. 

A few Great Resources

Talk to Me: Kim Beardon does a great job modeling the type of language that helps students, parents, and colleagues thrive. Beardon is a phenomenal communicator. Her book is packed with strategies on how to best reach people.

Beyond the Surface of Restorative Practices: Marisol Quevedo Rerucha does an extraordinary job teaching humans how to savor and restore relationships. 

Take the Leap: Elisabeth Bostwick explains how educators can foster an environment where risk-taking is normal, students are highly valued and teachers find ways to inspire students to achieve incredible growth. 

100 Things Teachers Should Stop Doing: Compiled by Rick Jetter and several educators does an amazing job highlighting several different ways to be more effective in the classroom. 

The Pepper Effect: Sean Gailliard, does a fantastic job explaining how to create a magical community students and teachers have always dreamed of.  Gaillard explains how to 

encourage others and share techniques for helping students feel like they belong to something really amazing. 

The Path to Serendipity: Allyson Apsey’s book does a great job reminding us that the interactions we have, although we might not feel it at the time, are gifts and opportunities.  

It’s not Always Easy, but it is Worth It

Making the effort to choose different words is not always easy, but is definitely worth it. Students appreciate the respect and effort we make to treat them well. Treat students according to their greatest potential, not necessarily according to the way they are currently acting. Focus on making small adjustments. Expecting the best contributes to buy-in, and you will find that it is easier than you think. 

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