I had a teacher who once told me I would most likely be a college dropout.

Her words mattered.

When I told my wife I wanted to write a book and she said without blinking an eye, “Do it.”

Her words mattered.

I told my daughter the other day how proud I was of her for writing a full sentence!

My words mattered.

And when I hear back from the teachers and parents that read this blog, I know my words matter. In fact, the truth is…all of our words matter regardless if we understand that or not. When you do understand the impact your words have on other human beings, you want to share that information. For me as a high school English teacher, I referenced a quote from my good friend Anthony Gabriele at the start of every new year:

“Learning how to use language effectively will be the most valuable skill you will have to use for the rest of your life.”

Woah. That is a deep thought. But I believe it is true.

Want to get a job? Your words on your resume and in your interview matter.

Want to get married? Your words used throughout your relationship matter.

Want to sell something? Build an audience? Your words definitely matter! Want to do anything important in the world? Chances are, your words will matter in almost every single situation.

What Are We Teaching Our Children About Their Words?

The problem I see across the board in schools and in the workplace, is that most people rarely think about the power their words have to make a positive impact. We tell students how to NOT use their words:

DON’T use your words to bully another person (important).

or DON’T use contractions (not that important).

And we often “de-value” our word power through writing tasks that are meaningless or menial. Yet, it is so important to let our children know how powerful their words can be when used for good. It’s time to share and show our youth that their words matter.

Your Words Matter

Angela Maiers is the founder of Choose2Matter and the #YouMatter movement. In short, You Matter can be summed up in these thoughts from Angela:

To matter means to be of consequence or importance to others. It means you are significant, relevant, worthy of note and of crucial value. The world may not always affirm this. Your friends and family may not adequately communicate the importance of your presence in their lives. But that doesn’t mean that what you do and who you are doesn’t have a profound impact on the world. It does. The world would be a very different place – a lesser place – without you.

Angela’s mission and words speak volumes to me as a parent, a teacher, and school leader. But even more so, it motivates me as a writer. I know when I put my pen to the paper (or really my fingers to the keyboard) that the words I craft will have some impact and relevance to others around me…as long as I share those words. If we want our students and children to know that their words have incredible power, we need to make sure they are sharing those words with the world.

Students today are writing and reading more than ever before. I wonder if they know all of these words matter. A recent study by Stanford found the following:

Today’s kids don’t just write for grades anymore. They write to shake the world. Moreover, they are writing more than any previous generation, ever, in history. They navigate in a bewildering new arena where writers and their audiences have merged.

Here is where we as the parents and educators need to come together. Every student around the world should have a safe public forum to share their words. Whether they want to write about what they are learning, share a story, write a story, or discuss sports/music etc…we need to make this a priority. How much value do students have for their words when they are usually read by 1-3 people (themselves, a teacher, a parent)?

So, what is the easiest way for student words to reach a real audience and make an impact…a blog. Blogging has made me a better writer more than anything else, and it has given my words power that a journal or school assignment never could match. It’s my hope that every single student will have a blog that they can write on while in school (or at home) and carry on to college, the workplace, and beyond.

Let’s Make It Happen Together

I realize there will be some people who point out that we need to make sure that our students’ identities are safe and I know that is our first responsibility. But there are already websites, companies, and products that have figured out how to make blogging a safe and open writing process (Kidblogs, Edublogs, and WriteAbout to name a few).

Yesterday was National Writing Day, and I’m hoping that teachers, parents, and students are already talking about the importance of their words in their classes this week. Starting on November 1st is “National Novel Writing Month” and it has an entire site devoted to Young Writers. I’ll be joining along this November and this it is a great month to start this blogging with your students and/or children if you aren’t already.

I want to use November 1st as the kick-off date to getting every student a platform to share their work and understand the power of their words.

If you are a teacher, parent, or educator that means:

  1. Sharing the YouMatter message from Angela Maiers with your child/students.
  2. Helping your child/students create a blog for them to share their writing.
  3. Connect them with other students around the world who are also writing online.

On November 1st you can help me spread the message that “Your Words Matter” through signing up for this ThunderClap right now:

What is ThunderClap? It’s an online platform where people rally around a cause or shared idea to spread the message through social media all at the same time. By signing up for this ThunderClap campaign you’ll join all of us in urging parents, teachers, and students to start blogging on November 1st at 9pm EST.

On November 1st I’ll post directions on how to get started blogging in as easy as 5 minutes. Let’s empower our students by sharing their words with the world!

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  • Jacki Prati says:

    Thank you for this post. The words you shared are powerful and so true. As educators we have to think carefully about what we say to children and the message that those words are sending. We have to be equally careful about the work the children are doing in our classes—the work we ask children to do matters too. If the work is engaging and authentic we are indeed sending the message to children that their words matter, their thinking matters and that they can make a difference, an impact, in the world.

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