At church the other day the pastor was talking about the story of the tower of Babel from the book of Genesis. If you’re not familiar with the story a quick rundown is in the beginning everybody spoke the same language. They wanted to build a tower to the heavens. God disapproved and scattered everyone across the world and after that they spoke in different languages.
It’s a very simplified version of the story but it really got me thinking about the language of my kids. I teach 6th graders and every day I walk into the classroom and start talking. I give instructions for activities. I read texts to the kids. I present them with new information. And inevitably there will be a kid who raises his hand and says “Mr. Stock, what are we supposed to do?”
Sometimes I think I’m being clear with my instructions, but I’ve been thinking a lot about my approach to teaching. I teach things from the language of an English teacher. I’ve gone through 21 years of schooling. I’ve been trained in analyzing language and text. I don’t speak the same language as my kids. They speak the language of an adolescent who hasn’t experienced the world the way I have and hasn’t seen the same things I have.
Therefore, one of my goals this year is to do a better job of translating my teaching into something that is meaningful and understandable to them. I don’t intend to dumb down my vocabulary, but I need to do a better job of seeing things through the eyes of a middle school student, to get the linguistic lens through which they are interpreting what I’m teaching.