The Power of Language when Teaching

Teaching is fraught with opportunities to build up or knock down. Often unwittingly, always with impact.

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The Power of Language when Teaching

Posted by Geraldine Fraser on

Teaching is fraught with opportunities to build up or knock down. Often unwittingly, always with impact. The COVID driven shift to remote learning has highlighted this vulnerability. It also presents an opportunity for the profession to put the spotlight on how children can benefit, or otherwise. The power of language resonates with us long after the lesson has passed. The scope for communicating the message clearly and having it open to 30 different interpretations is quite something. 30 different maps and 30 different connections.

Moving out of the classroom and removing the face to face bond between teacher and student is significant. The reliance on rapport to build and strengthen a relationship is lost. The requirement to communicate blindly through the ‘chat function’ removing the senses and placing more emphasis on the demand for clear and, importantly, purposeful communication.

Usual teaching practice lends itself to ‘off-the-cuff’ remarks, sometimes unthinking but generally (one would hope) with best intentions. Remarks that flutter into the ether – making no mark on the teacher or on 29 students but leaving an indelible stain on another. A maths teacher last week said to my 11-year-old whilst on a ‘live’ lesson – “You won’t need to try this one as it is very challenging”. The intention and sentiment was well intended; I have no doubt. The message, however, cut deep. It reinforced the limiting belief that maths was ‘hard’ and not something that my daughter could ever hope to improve. A fleeting moment in a one-hour lesson, a comment released and embedded. The damage had been done. The relationship tarnished. The rapport dented.

As a teacher with recent NLP training, I have never been more aware of the power of language on relationships with my students. The importance of rapport and being sensitive to the 30 different maps in the room. The ease with which we can ‘un-do’ a person without even meaning to.

Geraldine Fraser
Geraldine Fraser (Member post)

Geraldine Fraser is the Deputy Head at Prenton High School for Girls, Merseyside. She is also an NLP Practitioner and member of ANLP.