One of the most practical and powerful books I’ve ever read as a teacher that has directly affected my practice is The Power of Our Words by Paula Denton.  In it, Denton describes, using specific examples, how what we say and the words we choose with students can transform our teaching and our classroom.  It did for me.

This past week at ISTE 2010, the largest educational technology conference of its kind in the world, there was a lot of talk about a session (I’m not sure who ran it or what it was called. If you do, please tell me in the comments!) in which the leader did not let the participants use the word ‘but.’  For instance, you couldn’t say “I would love to use technology in my classroom BUT I don’t have enough resources.” you would have to say “I would love to use technology in my classroom AND I’m looking for grant opportunities to bring resources into my classroom.”

It’s amazing how changing that one little word can change your entire outlook on a situation.

So I challenge you: When you start to hear yourself say ‘but….,’ STOP. Think. Reword your statement to reflect a positive outlook.

For more about overcoming negativity, read this post by Carla Arana called Say NO to Change, which addresses how we need to change our attitudes about change.

photo courtesy of Dunechaser on Flickr


  1. Kyle Pace


    Or it's like the teacher that thinks there's no possible place for tech in their content area. Really? We're still using that excuse too? We have to challenge ourselves. Do a little grunt work and investigate along with that positive attitude. We have to keep current on best practices. I said this on another blog just a little while ago, "Who wants to teach the same year 30 times?" I don't. Would you want that experience for your children? Technology can offer a diverse, engaging, differentiated, experience.

  2. Mary B


    Another professional book along these lines is "Choice Words" by Peter H. Johnson. Highly recommend it to complement the book you mention. As teachers we have to be very mindful of the fact that we are modeling to learners how to use words to effectively communicate with one another and how to treat one another respectfully through words.

  3. elemschheads


    As I read this post, nodding in agreement, "Choice Words" came to my mind, too. I recommend it! — Claudia Daggett, Elementary School Heads Association

  4. Reply

    You have a wonderful way with words!

    “Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results.”
    Willie Nelson

  5. Reply

    Thanks for the book recommendation. I will have to check it out.

    I hope I can stick to my own challenge and stay positive!

  6. Reply

    What a great post, Paul. Thanks for sharing it. The Eagle story is a great reminder for educators. I cringe at the ways that some adults in my building spoke to children. I myself have been guilty of speaking harshly to a student, though I always make a point of apologizing. I wonder if you've read "Discipline with Dignity."

  7. Reply

    I don't like rules and consequences 😉 I can still remember one of the biggest changes in my teaching came my sixth year when I came in with no rules or consequences. Hard to believe you can "control" kids without rules eh?
    Something I still rarely admit in public 🙂

  8. Reply

    I have 3 'rules' in my classroom: Respect yourself, Respect others, Respect your environment" They are more like guidelines for our classroom environment.

    I am not a fan of rules either (my parents gave very few while I was growing up) and I find that the less you try to control your students the better your classroom runs.

    That said, many of my students come from completely unstructured environments and are often left to their own devices. Or, their idea of a consequence is a 'beating'. These students crave structure and I find that logical consequences that are purposeful, thought out, involve discussion and learning and are directly tied to the action are helpful because, well, life has consequences. If my students don't learn that somewhere then I have done them a disservice. Most of my consequences involve apologizing, picking up a mess they made, righting a wrong or having a heart to heart about a situation. If it is a fight or something is broken or someone is hurt, then a phone call home is in order.

    I guess one might call it 'natural consequences' rather than contrived ones like "detention."

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