Say all the right words with the right emphasis at the right time. Oh, you can make men weep or cry with joy, change them. You can change people’s minds just with words….You’re the wordsmith…. When you’re locked away in your room, the words just come, don’t they? They’re like magic. Words. The right sound, the right shape, the right rhythm, words that last forever.

– Doctor Who, 10th Doctor, The Shakespeare Code

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I love words. I recently started compiling a list of favorite words and add to it whenever I read. My current list includes:

  • Betwixt
  • Chortle
  • Colloquial
  • Dismal
  • Eloquent
  • Endeavor
  • Evanescent
  • Facetious
  • Gait
  • Guffaw
  • Idiosyncratic
  • Incandescent
  • Loquacious
  • Nonsensical
  • Purloin
  • Quintessential
  • Superfluous
  • Tempestuous
  • Whimsical

I have given quite a bit of thought as to the power that words have. Having grown up in a religious home, I have grown up reading many passages from the Bible about the power of the tongue.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire…. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. (James 3:3-8)

The words of Johnston in Choice Words echo this ancient text. Teachers hold an enormous amount of power in their words. Just like the mockingbird in The Bat Poet, the teacher is a role model for the student. Hopefully UNLIKE the mockingbird, the teacher will be patient, uplifting, and encouraging as the student learns in the classroom.

I also thought it was interesting that Johnston pointed out that “Children, in their own ways, teach us about the language of our classrooms.” I have always been a big talker. I was also an early talker. When I was 18 months old, I was asking questions and using words in context, such as “indentation”. Johnston points out that talking is the main mode by which students make sense of everything in the classroom.

What a relief (for me)! What I pulled from this is that even though we want to maintain order in the classroom, students should be encouraged to ask questions, discuss, and come to conclusions on their own with their classmates. It’s okay if this discussion time gets noisy or even disorderly if it means that the students are learning from it and making sense in the classroom.

The tongue has the power of life and death. (Proverbs 18:21)

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