It Matters What Words You Use

by Leslie Bolser

Last night, my daughters and I walked to our local park with a group of family friends. As we enjoyed one of the first official nights of summer break, we bumped into Emily, a young lady from our church who is home for college break.

Over the spring, she had asked me to be a reference for a summer job she was hoping to land working with kids in our parks and recreation department’s summer day camp. In front of the whole group, I casually asked her how it was going, expecting an eye roll and some complaints about the high ratio of kids to adults, or that kids didn’t listen, or that she was keeping that job but only until something better came around.

However, Emily’s answer—and my daughters’ reaction—showed me something important.

She raved about the program, the staff, and the kids she works with. She talked about how she has formed strong relationships with all of them in the short time she has been there. She said that she talks so much about the kids, her sister is coming on her day off to spend time with them. As she spoke, the whole group was listening. In fact, despite having a mother who stays home with them, my daughters now want to sign up for summer day camp!

I thought a lot about our conversation with Emily and how she illustrated for my family something important.

Words matter.

As the primary way through which we communicate, our words are essential. The ones we choose to use when we describe the programs, organizations and people we work closely with have the power to form other’s opinions and to spread quickly through social groups.

In order to have a greater impact in our communities, we need to remember this axiom as it relates to schools. Whether you home school, send your children to a private school, or are invested in the public school system, the words you use to describe schools in your community matter.

Do your words about your schools show that you care about all kids? Do the words you use—publically and privately—say that schools and the teachers in them are valuable? Will the words you use now open doors for you relationally with schools later? How are you using the influence you have to support the organizations in your community that have the most access to kids and families?

Emily’s words captured my kids’ imagination, and created a picture of a place they wanted to be. She chose to describe her work relationally instead of institutionally. Her words mattered, and last night, she gained influence with a group of families by understanding that simple fact.

Leslie Bolser is the Creative Director for Core Essential Values, a company that provides resources and curriculum for schools as well as strategies for community and faith-based organizations to partner with schools. They believe that values are core and words are essential. To talk more about your relationship with schools, contact Leslie at lbolser@coreessentials.org.

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