Thursday, August 18, 2016

Why Words Matter

As my almost two-year-old embarks upon her first meaningful conversations with us, I am reminded how important language and words are to each of us. Harper has only recently begun to announce her name as proudly she enters a room, counting to four, and identifying shapes in board books. Anything that is green is a frog, and anything that is furry is, of course, a dog. Her enthusiasm and delightful squeals when she has discovered a new word are mesmeric. Her brow furls as she processes and realizes that she, in fact, understands a new concept that did not exist in her world until 0.25 seconds prior. An explosive acquisition of language is allowing her to embrace the world in ways that had previously been inaccessible to her.

Being almost two also seems overwhelming. When my sweet yet determined little lady does not have the words to communicate her thoughts or her present needs at a given moment, she immediately becomes frustrated, distraught, or downright upset. Again, her brow crinkles up in a desperate attempt to make sense of her surroundings. This level of frustration often results in tears and necessitates a hug, which I secretly slightly enjoy (She'll only cuddle for so long). Her tears, however, also remind me to pause and consider the feelings of all those who feel as if they do not have a voice.

In her struggles, I am reminded of my students who claim to hate writing papers because they're boring, but privately know that structuring and developing their ideas in a written format is challenging. I am reminded of the students who have home or personal struggles that they hide behind smiles and socializing in class. Being able to communicate and articulate ideas is not a concept that any of us should take for granted.

This fall, I hope to reiterate the importance of communication with my students. In a world that often leaves us at a loss of words and without the opportunity to share our thoughts, I hope that I can empower my new students with an ability to use words responsibility - to share ideas, promote positivity, and seek out their aspirations. In this final week of summer, my daughter has inadvertently reminded me how much words matter.

Why Words Matter: 

1. Words allow us to communicate.

At the beginning of August, I spent an entire week working with 49 high school students on communication skills that will not only improve their skills for the competitive speech season this fall, but also skills that will enhance their ability to speak, write, listen, and read in both academic and social forums. These literacy skills are essential to engaging in and contributing to the communities in which we reside. Throughout the week of camp, I found myself inspired by young people who embraced new experiences and worked to hone their skills.

2.  Words allow us to convey ideas.

In addition to practicing their communication skills, speech camp is a time in which students are challenged to share their thoughts and ideas in a variety of formats. Being consumers of media, students must understand how to process the information they receive, discern misinformation, and also be able to eloquently articulate opinions and thoughts. In addition to reading, writing, speaking, and listening, students need to be empowered with the ability to make sense of the messages they receive from a variety of platforms. Media literacy is a valuable tool for communicating in a digital world.

3. Words allow us to connect.

Being able to express oneself is valuable and empowering. It also allows individuals to build relationships - both professional and personal. One characteristic that has made the speech team so successful is the bond and friendship that the students form. These relationships arise because students can be open, honest, and expressive with one another. When people bond over shared experiences and can articulate their perceptions, they are more likely to create strong memories that strengthen friendships.

4. Words allow us to create.

Words enable us to express and share ideas in formal ways. We can write, deliver speeches, and create various forms of media that communicate great messages. Words must be used responsibly because they have meaning to their receivers, and if they are not entirely articulated, they can be misunderstood or lead to breakdowns in communication. Even a single word can hold significant meaning and elicit powerful emotional responses. As such, we must use them thoughtfully and cautiously. Our words are powerful. We must remember to use them well.

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