Defy-ns CC0 CC0

not yet
not today
no thank you
not acceptable

I’ve used all of the above.

Postive and negative language flows like freeways in education.
Yet, many of us drive like we are on one way streets?

Consider the interactions below that evoked the responses above;

S: Do we have to hand our tests in if we need more time to complete it?
T: No. Extra time can be added to help you finish without feeling rushed.

S: Do we need to work with the same people on this project?
T: Nah. Work with who works best with you on this one.

S: Do we have any homework over the March Break?
T: Nope. Take some time to enjoy a rest.

S: Why do I always struggle to understand Math? I will never get it.
T: Not yet. Your struggle does not mean you won’t ever understand Math. Keep asking questions and practising problem solving. You will make progress.

S: Can we do a worksheet?
T: Not today.

S1: Thank you for letting us discuss what happened outside.
S2: Thank you for letting us do our presentations over again.
T: No. Thank you. I appreciate your honesty and kind words.

T: Is this your best work?
S: No. I think I’d like to change a couple of things, but I need to hand it in or it will be late.
T: Sorry, not acceptable. Take an extra period/recess/evening to work on it so you will be one hundred percent happy with your work. It will be worth the wait.
S: Thank you.
T: No. Thank you.

For many of our students the kindest words they will hear all day will come at school. The power to alter the expectations and narratives of our learners is at the tip of our tongues.

I hope that you will all have a chance to be defiant in the way you use traditionally negative language in your classrooms. Please take the time to share your thoughts in the comment section. Thank you for reading.


Updated: May 4, 2018 — 12:54 pm

The Author

Will Gourley

P/J lead learner and SERT at Adrienne Clarkson PS in the YRDSB. Focused on disruptive, and divergent modern learning. Member of the global TED-Ed(Club) movement, 1 of 110 TED Ed Innovative Educators, and Global Math Project Ambassador. Twitter @willgourley Proudly blogging here and at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

© 2019 The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario | ETFO Website | RSS Feed | Login