I've been working on an experiment for the past few months, and it came up in conversation with a colleague this morning so it must be time to write about it! The experiment is simple. I have mostly eliminated the words "but" & "however" from my vocabulary.
Now, this may sound bizarre to you. "But what about when you need to say something and then say the opposite?" you may be shouting at your screen. Well, I have replaced those words with "and", "also" & "additionally." How does this sound in practice in the classroom? Here's an example of how a conversation might go:
"Mme Gaudet, I'm thinking of making a flamethrower for my Passion Project, would I be allowed to do that?"
Option 1 : Yes, but you will have to get permission and be safe.
Option 2 : Yes, and we will discuss ways that you can be safe while you do that.
The "Yes, but" option sounds a lot like "No", while the "Yes, and" response doesn't close off any avenues.
I'm also consciously using "and" instead of "but" when giving instructions and feedback to students. "This project will be challenging, and I know that we can do it." Rather than setting up a dichotomy between what is challenging, and what we can do, I link the two ideas together and it becomes as if one follows naturally from the other.
I don't know if this shift in language is evident to my students, or if it is having an effect on their perceptions. I hope so. I hope that they hear in my words a sense of possibility, a sense of openness, a sense of "and".