The trouble seems to be that we can't see how damaging using can't in our own vocabulary and interpretation of student success can be.
So often I feel myself grimace as I hear professionals make comments like:
~"He just can't write legibly."
~"She can't talk to me that way."
~"He can't read and comprehend this book."
~"He can't respond in that manner."
~"I can't do anything about it."
Here's the trouble with it:
- Can't is like using a stop sign. It creates no further thinking or problem solving. It's like just stating a fact (which isn't one).
- Using can't indicates that things labeled as two things- can & can not. There is no room for improvement, possibility or change. This is "all or none" thinking.
- Can't is a strong word with a heavy meaning. Does the phrase "self-fulfilling prophecy" sound familiar?
- Can't is the line in the sand. If you step on the wrong side of the line what happens? If you step on the right side- then what?
- Can't is a very good indicator of our own, personal "buttons." When the person above mentions that a student "can't talk to me that way", the most probable translation could really be, "I dislike it when this student talks to me this way. I feel disrespected and that I could lose control of the situation if I allow this to happen."
So, the truth of the matter is that students (and the rest of us) can & will do whatever it is they choose to, are lead to or are taught. They can write, they can talk to you in a positive manner, they can improve reading and, yes, you can do something about it.
Start here. Just rephrase the statements above by a word or two. It can be amazing to see what thoughts & ideas will follow after removing that one simple word.
~"He is having a difficult time writing as legibly as I would like him to." So, what can you do to help him faciliate success?
~"I wish she wouldn't talk to me that way." I wonder what I could do to encourage her to speak to me more positively?
~"He is struggling to comprehend this book." I wonder if I should try to use a different method to help him?
~"I'd prefer if he wouldn't talk to me in that manner." Is there a way I could reinforce him when he communicates with me in a way that I prefer?
~"I can do something about this." You bet you can!
The beauty of eliminating word is that you have eliminated excuses and stop signs towards success. Eliminating this word from your own vocabulary can empower you to question further and dig deeper so you can get to the bottom of that reading problem, behavior concern and put forth a plan of action. It also sparks creativity, makes you look for solutions and gives hope.
It's amazing how just altering one little word can really make quite an impact on you, your teaching and relationships with others. What a difference a word makes. Don't worry, I know you can do it!