Bad Words

Most years, during the First-Week-Here’s-How-I-Roll speeches, I write a list of words on the board.  It’s the Mr. Malany Bad Word List.  It goes without saying that certain four-letter words are banned in my classroom, but this list spells out a few additional naughty vocabulary words.  They include your “retards”, “shut ups”, “gays”, “sucks”, “screws”, “butts”, etc.  Basically, the you-shouldn’t-say-them-in-front-of-your-mother list.  I let them get their chuckle in, then from that point forward, we don’t hear them.  Every now and then a student may need a friendly reminder, and occasionally a deeper “here’s why” conversation, but for the most part, those words don’t enter my classroom.

This year I want to add to the list.  I’m not going to write these words on the board though…I just don’t want the kids to know them.  They’re teacher words.  I paid lots of money to go to college.  In fact, I spent a lot of time doing it.  And I worked hard doing it.  And I like to think that there are a few things I got out of college that I wouldn’t know otherwise:  teacher words.

In education, we seem to throw around buzz words to/at/in front of/near/around/toward students.  The more buzz words we throw, the better teachers we are, right?  And surely, the more syllables in the buzz words…well…we just have the ammo to put John Keating to shame!


So here is my list of words that originated as “teacher-only” words… my opinion, need to return there:

1.  objective

2.  assessment

3.  formative

4.  summative

5.  intervention

6.  differentiated instruction

7.  indicator

8.  standard

9.  benchmark

10.  learning target

11.  critical thinking

12.  divergent

13.  classroom management

14.  graphic organizer

15.  21st Century __________

16.  integrated

17.  data analysis

18.  scaffolding

19.  supplemental

Don’t get me wrong!  I’ll DO these things.  Oh, I’ll do these things constantly!  But can’t ten-year old kids DO without knowing they’re DOING something?  I know, I know…kids need to know learning targets so they have clear objectives to accomplish during a lesson…blah, blah blah.  I call that teaching.  Integrate it.  (Oooh look – a buzz word!)  Integrate it deeply into a conversation or a self-directed activity or a discovery lesson or a technology experience.

I don’t care how you use your fancy buzz words.  Just integrate them.  And don’t tell the kids you’re doing it!



2 thoughts on “Bad Words

  1. 1. I love your “bad word” idea! Definitely going to use that this year! There are certain words every student in my class knows are off-limits, but I think with 5th graders, the more direct we can be with them, the better.
    2. While I’ve never explicitly done the “bad word” explanation in my class, I am extremely strict about facial expressions and tones. During the first week of school (and throughout the year as reminders when needed), we have a discussion about the types of tones/expressions that are prohibited in our classroom: sarcastic sighs at other classmates’ responses, exchanging “What an idiot!” glances with friends across the room after another classmate’s response, rude tones, etc.
    3. I completely agree with abstaining from using (but still applying) “teacher” words with students; nothing productive ever comes out of it. Their eyes just glaze over, and they resort to body language that screams “Boring!” It’s kind of like the expression on their faces after we read them the mandated, redundant directions on the state tests……..
    4. Glad I found your blog. I enjoyed reading.

  2. Thanks, Sara! I like the idea of having dialoge about body language/facial expressions. Those can be much more frequent, much easier to pull off, and eerily, much more damaging! Great idea!

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