Angela Maiers has written a great post about the power our language has as teachers. She talks particularly about using the phrase “I notice…” with students. I would very strongly recommend you read her entire post, titled “Two Powerful Words: I Notice.”
One quote she includes is something said by Susan Sarandon in the movie “How We Dance”:
“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’.”
If we succeed, first of all, in really noticing our students, and then in letting them know that we have done, we’re well on our way to helping them achieve their best. Noticing can be something as small as mentioning that important soccer match that was played last night to a kid you know loves the game, or referring to something that a particular student might have written about for homework or said in a long past discussion. I’ve seen in my own classroom (in Germany) what a difference being noticed makes in student motivation, confidence, and the all important willingness to take risks and extend themselves in their learning. Learning, whether in school, in our professional lives, or in life in general, is about stepping outside of our comfort zones to reach for something that is just barely out of reach. To take the risk, to make that step, we need the confidence to believe it is possible. Our students need teachers who notice them to build this confidence. Thanks for the quote.
I think the movie is “Shall We Dance?” and she is exactly right. In college, my reading instruction professor taught us that as teachers we need to be “first-class noticers.”