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No Neutral Exchanges

Every morning, while I get ready for work, I listen to Family Life Radio on the clock radio I keep in my bathroom.  This is a Christian radio station.

On Wednesday, Peter and Shannyn interviewed tobyMac…

I had the privilege of hearing him perform when his band played in Florida a couple of years ago.  The picture above is one of many I took that evening.  I blogged about it here.

I don’t remember what question Shannyn asked Toby on Wednesday (I think it had something to do with interacting with people), but his response is something I probably will never forget.

He said, and I paraphrase, “There are no neutral exchanges.  You can either tear someone down or choose to speak life.”

Wow!  Those words hit home immediately.

I’d had a rough start to the week and had cried after my last class had left on Monday.  Conversations with my students had not gone well before the bell had rung, and I felt discouraged.

On my way out of school that day, I talked to a friend, a new reading teacher, and she asked what I was more stressed about…lesson planning or something else.  I told her that I worried about my relationships with my students which was why I was so upset.

I also told her that I had learned that our challenge was to rise above our students’ emotions.  I know that I need to be even-keeled, not affected personally by outside influences that affect my students’ moods and, ultimately, our exchanges.

Unfortunately, I am often reactionary.  It’s a habit that I am trying to break.

Toby Mac’s words spoke to my guilt-ridden heart.  I realized that every time I have a conversation with a person, that person will walk away either beaten down or uplifted.

There’s no in-between.

Period.

It was quite the eye-opener, and as I drove to school, I prayed that God would help me be more self-controlled.

I wanted to be more purposeful about the words I would speak that day.

I’ll tell you something.  It was hard.

There were quite a few times when I caught myself in the middle of saying something in a way that could have been taken negatively, so I worked really hard to either not say those things or change them into positives.

I wasn’t perfect, but I was much better, and it made a huge difference in my attitude.

I was calm all day.

I spoke slower.

My students responded to my attitude by being calmer and less argumentative.

Did I still hold kids accountable?

Yes.

Did I still mark them tardy?

Yep.

The difference was that I responded to them in a positive manner.

Was I perfect on Thursday?

Nope.  I had a negative exchange with one student that I wish desperately I could do over.  Was I completely at fault?  No.  As the adult, though, I could have said things differently.  I’m going to work on fixing that.

I am going to have a sit-down with my students and explain this whole concept of choosing to speak life or tear down.

I’m going to put this on a poster in my room with the hopes that it fosters a positive, supportive classroom environment.

Can you imagine what a different world we would live in if everyone ascribed to this philosophy?

Oh, and here’s Toby’s song, Speak Life, which now has taken on a whole new meaning for me.

“Speak Life”

Some days, life feels perfect.
Other days it just ain’t workin.
The good, the bad, the right, the wrong
And everything in between.

Though it’s crazy, amazing
We can turn a heart with the words we say.
Mountains crumble with every syllable.
Hope can live or die

So speak Life, speak Life.
To the deadest darkest night.
Speak life, speak Life.
When the sun won’t shine and you don’t know why.
Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted;
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope,
You speak love, you speak…
You speak Life, (oh oh oh oh oh oh) You speak Life. (oh oh oh oh oh oh)

Some days the tongue gets twisted;
Other days my thoughts just fall apart.
I do, I don’t, I will, I won’t,
It’s like I’m drowning in the deep.

Well it’s crazy to imagine,
Words from our lips as the arms of compassion,
Mountains crumble with every syllable.
Hope can live or die.

So speak Life, speak Life.
To the deadest darkest night.
Speak life, speak Life.
When the sun won’t shine and you don’t know why.
Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted;
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope,
You speak love, you speak…
You speak Life, (oh oh oh oh oh oh) You speak Life. (oh oh oh oh oh oh)

Lift your head a little higher,
Spread the love like fire,
Hope will fall like rain,
When you speak life with the words you say.

Raise your thoughts a little higher,
Use your words to inspire,
Joy will fall like rain,
When you speak life with the things you say.

Lift your head a little higher,
Spread the love like fire,
Hope will fall like rain,
When you speak life with the words you say.

So speak Life, speak Life.
To the deadest darkest night.
Speak life, speak Life.
When the sun won’t shine and you don’t know why.
Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted;
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope,
You speak love, you speak…
You speak Life, (oh oh oh oh oh oh) You speak Life. (oh oh oh oh oh oh)

You speak Life, (oh oh oh oh oh oh) You speak Life. (oh oh oh oh oh oh)

Some days life feels perfect.

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