I have written about the power of words many times. I truly believe in and value the impact that words have on others. This summer, I attended a conference in which Michelle Gielan, author of Broadcasting Happiness gave the keynote. During her inspiring talk, Michelle said three words that I will never forget. When I heard these words it was as if everything happening around me stopped and the weight of their meaning poured into my soul. I didn’t even have to write them down because in that very moment, what she said forever changed who I was.
“Words change people.” –Michelle Gielan
Take minute and really let this simple phrase sink in. “Words change people.”
When I say these words I can actually feel them inside of me. We often say, “be careful what you say”, or “words have an impact”. But, never had I considered that “words change people”.
Not long after Michelle’s keynote I stood in the main office of my school greeting families and welcoming them on Meet the Teacher Night. I was helping answer questions about bus stops and teacher assignments and I didn’t pay much attention when the mom of an Arabic speaking student walked in along side of the mom of an English speaking student. I did notice that their children were laughing and playing side by side. But then I realized that the English speaking mother was carrying the other mother’s toddler for her. I soon discovered that these two moms had become friends over the summer because the live in the same neighborhood. And, to top is off the English speaking mother was using a translation app on her phone to talk to the Arabic speaking mom so she could help her navigate all of the beginning of the year forms that come with starting school.
This story is heartwarming to say the least, but there is more to it. Just four months prior to this encounter on Meet the Teacher Night, I had another encounter with the same English speaking mom. Only this time she was expressing how uncomfortable and downright annoyed she was with all of the people in her neighborhood who couldn’t speak English. We had a heated and honest conversation. By the end of it I had convinced her that she should change her perspective about her neighbors and maybe try to meet some of them, bake them some cookies and welcome them to America. Yes, I actually said those words to her. She hugged me and said she appreciated me taking the time to talk to her without judgment. Needless to say, I chalked that up as a great day and would have been happy for the story to end there. Little did I know that in just a few short months, I would find this same mom taking another mom, one who didn’t speak English, under her wing.
As I watched this mom and her new friend work together in the office on that Meet the Teacher Night, I was once again reminded that words change people. And, as this amazing mom turned to leave the office she hesitated for a moment, looked me directly in the eye and said, “Remember our conversation last school year? What you said changed my life.”
I’ve written this post for one reason and one reason only, to remind myself and everyone who reads it that words really do change people. Our words are more than just heard and forgotten. Our words stay long after we’re finished saying them.
Our words change people. How do you choose to use your words?
I hope my blog posts inspire risk taking and new ways of thinking. I hope to connect with other educators on our journey to always do what's best for children.