Despite the age-old saying that sticks and stones break bones but words don’t hurt, words as well as tone can cause harm, especially at a young age.
Even in their most formative years, humans are still sensitive to the language that others use, according to Dr. Patty O’Grady in an article for TeachThought. O’Grady advises that kindness must be experienced to be learned, and that in the same way, negativity and abuse can be learned if that is what is being demonstrated.
Because these traits must be taught, it almost goes without saying that children should be educated by people who want to work with them. Notice the word “almost.” One would think this would be self-explanatory, but here we are, having to say it.
Children deserve the chance to be instructed in an uplifting environment rather than a harmful one, and yet some are subjected to adults who want nothing to do with them.
For example, an elementary school in West Virginia has been making headlines since November after a wary mother sent her six-year-old daughter to school with a recording device hidden in her hair.
Instructors in the daughter’s special education classroom were recorded being verbally abusive and threatening to students, saying things like “I ought to back-hand you right in the teeth,” and “I’ll punch you right in your face.”
Not only are these children experiencing harsh words at an age where they are most easily influenced, but the mother stated in an interview that many of the children in the classroom are nonverbal, meaning that they could not respond to the abuse even if they wanted to.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed a human rights civil complaint on Wednesday in response to these allegations on Tuesday, according to West Virginia Metro News.
Morrisey told West Virginia Metro News that he wants to not only stand up for the children that were exposed to these threats, but also “to deter future abuses that may occur.”
While Morrisey’s actions and statement certainly deserve recognition, the root of the problem goes back to these educators being employed in the first place. If helping shape the next generation is not something that has you excited to get out of bed every morning, maybe it’s time to consider an alternate career path.
The Atlanta Speech School Rollins Center for Language and Literacy filmed an advertisement focused on this very concept. In the video, a young student is pictured interacting with various adults who are verbally abusive, and as a result, the child goes home unhappy. However, the video then shows the same child’s interactions with the same adults, only in a positive and uplifting way, which encourages the child to pursue his passions.
The Rollins Center prides itself on helping children find their voice, stating that they believe “language is the key to unlocking every child’s potential.”
There are plenty of people who enjoy teaching and working with young minds each day, and unfortunately, those teachers, librarians, pediatricians, social workers, museum curators and so many others rarely make the news because they’re simply doing what they love.
That being said, working with children is not for everyone. Some people prefer working with other adults, while others would rather work with animals and others still would feel best working completely on their own. If the thought of making children smile and inspiring their minds isn’t a driving force for you, leave those careers to the people who actually want to help them succeed.