One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.
Acts 18:9 (NIV)
Prayer and Meditation
So many times I am surrounded by vicious talk. Often it is colleagues or teachers engaging in mean-spirited, even malicious gossip about students, parents, or each other. Sometimes it is students participating in cruel and heartless rants causing others to cry or question their self-worth. It is so easy to ignore these words and feel I am doing my part by not participating in the verbal harangues, but I know this is not enough. Bestow upon me the courage and faith you gave Paul so that I may break my silence and not be afraid to speak even when I am uncomfortable and afraid.
The Actions of Prayerful Teaching
- Set an example for students and staff. Do not let negative words cross your lips. Listening to vicious talk is not a passive action, it is a participatory action.
- When breaking your silence, remain emotionally disengaged. Be assertive while staying calm and respectful. Speak only of the incident at hand. Make your point as short as possible—never more than 60 seconds.
- Stop the malicious behavior as soon as it begins. Don’t hear it out and then respond.
- Build confidence in your students. Teach them how to respond to gossip and bullying. It is not enough to tell them to intervene. They need specific strategies. Modeling intervention strategies is necessary. Follow up with more modeling. Modeling must continue the entire school year. Another necessary step in order for the modeled strategies to be effective, is that students practice and act out the strategies under adult supervision.
- Discuss mean-spirited talk in class. Define it. Why does it occur? What kind of person promotes it? Create a class code of conduct concerning gossip and verbal bullying. Work in groups to create posters which can be posted throughout the school.
Challenge of the Week
Prepare to break your silence. Think of an “attack with words” you will most likely encounter this week. Plan how you will respond and what you will say in response. Sometimes it helps to practice in front of a mirror or practice with a partner. This does not mean you will memorize a speech, only that you will be more prepared and more confident in your response.
God Bless and Prayerful Teaching,
Elizabeth A. Wink