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Leading With These Two Words: I Notice

By LeaderTalk Contributor — November 14, 2009 2 min read
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A teacher’s language is a powerful teaching tool. Our language can build children up or tear them down. It can model
respectful and caring social interactions or just the opposite.
Effective language encourages and supports students in their learning,
rather than criticizing them for their mistakes. Effective teacher language also:


  • Is clear, simple, and direct
  • Is genuine and respectful
  • Gives specific positive feedback rather than general praise
  • Focuses on the child’s action or behavior rather than generalizing about the
    child’s whole person
  • Avoids qualitative or personal judgment
  • Showsfaith in childrens abilities and potential

Once, I began to use the encouraging
phrase “I notice” every time I saw appropriate behaviors, specifically
identifying what I saw
. Other encouraging phrases that I wrote in my
plan book were “I hear...” and “I see...”

I also put key phrases up on the wall to help me remember the language I wanted to use. For example, I posted empowering phrases such as “Show
me...,” and “Remind me...” I involved the children in this process by telling them I was trying to learn a better way to talk to them and how the phrases on the wall were like notes to myself.

I encouraged the children to help me during this period of change. I
said, “You can use these phrases with each other and remind me when I need to use them.” I also tape-recorded myself and reviewed the tapes, analyzing my tone and words and the responses. In other words, I became proactive: I thought before I spoke, I practiced, reflected, and self-corrected.

The comment centered on my favorite quote from the movie Shall We Dance [I just noticed the subtitle: “A new comedy about following your own lead”], uttered by the character Susan Sarandon as Beverly Clark (emphasis mine):

We need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet... I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things... all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness'."

Although the quote is referring to marriage, I think the need of a human being to be noticed, to be witnessed, to matter, is behind much of the popularity in all social media, and is captured - or projected - most acutely in Twitter. I don’t mean to equate the Twitter follower / followee relationship with marriage - indeed, with most Twitter users having multiple followers and/or followees, this would be akin to an extreme case of polygamy - but I do believe that this quote captures the spirit of the ambient intimacy afforded by Twitter (and intended by its designers).

T.S. Eliot, sums this up in a quote that is short enough to fit in a Twitter post (or “tweet”):

To be of importance to others is to be alive.

Use your eyes. Say “I Notice” you. Watch kids come to life.

This post also appears on Angela Maiers

The opinions expressed in LeaderTalk are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


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