one positive word. A declaration. A lettered tangibility of one’s self.
This is what I asked of each and every one of my students last week. What word defines you? What word shows you off to the world? Can you find one past the surface level? Is this your own word, or one you’ve heard others use when describing you?
Inspired by a colleague from my time as an undergraduate, an entire wall in my classroom is dedicated to these one word declarations. My students are charged with pinpointing one word that highlights a facet or area of themselves that they are proud of, they think highly of, or a word that conveys their sense of humor, or general attitude on life.
Some students excel at this, some come up short and need suggestions. This reveals many things about my students, which is great, but it also gives them a space to reflect. This space is a precious part of my curriculum and personal beliefs: introspection unlocks in us that which no other practice can. It is a key to this sacred space that once accessed, changes us forever.
Among many others, some of my favorite statements include: I am…
A big deal
A brave mother!
An autism fighter!
My word last year was inspired. This year, I have chosen capable as my declaration to my students, my peers, and myself. I am capable of doing amazing things. I am capable of failing and learning from it. I am capable of speaking the truth. I am capable of… you get it.
I do not profess this to be an original idea. Like I said, I stole it from someone else. I do, however, know that this practice- totalling just 10 minutes of class time- changes the environment for the rest of the year. It puts our strengths, personalities, senses of humor, and honesty front and center. Students are forced to look at these declarations every day simply by being in the room with them. They see the relatability in these truths, even if they think this is just another ice breaking activity. They see past gossip and labels, even if they think this is a waste of construction paper and markers.
Every person, no matter their career or place of work (or lack thereof), needs a word. A word that you can declare to yourself when others talk down at you, when you feel belittled, or when you feel like absolute royalty and know that you are slaying everything you do. You need a word, or else you will start to define yourself based on words other people have chosen for you. Maybe they’re kind, maybe they’re not, but either way they’re not yours. You are not a product of other people.