I’m conducting an experiment. For an entire year I am going to try (I know this will be hard) to replace one word in my vocabulary, both written and spoken. The word I’m replacing is but. My experiment is to replace it with and. But/and but/and but/and…Getting started feels difficult and awkward but and I’m hoping with practice, it will become more natural.
My reasoning for trying this strategy is two-fold. First, although I don’t have exact evidence, more often than I care to remember, the word but becomes a roadblock for a student; especially students who are labeled gifted.
“There is evidence that John should be accelerated in math.” “But he isn’t organized.”
“The reading material is not challenging to Isra.” “But she doesn’t participate in class discussions.”
“I have an online learning opportunity for Juan that I think will challenge him.” “But he doesn’t hand in his assignments.”
When situations like the above happen, the strategy I am going to try is to restate what was said by both parties by changing the word but to and.
“I think we can both agree, the reading material is not challenging to Isra and she doesn’t participate in class discussions. How can we work with her to overcome both of these roadblocks?” The conversation now opens the door to the opportunity of working together to meet the student’s needs. Nice!
My second reason for focusing on the word and is that in my work as an instructional coach I know I use the word but too often. My goal is to provide feedback to help teachers make small changes that produce a big impact. But/And sometimes that one little word can be a roadblock I unintentionally placed in front of the person I am trying to help. I don’t want to be a roadblock.
“I noticed you are using the R.A.F.T. strategy but the students are confused about the A-audience component.”
The word but instantly made the teacher become defensive.
“I noticed you are using the R.A.F.T. strategy and the students are confused about the A-audience part.” Now simply changing the word but to and alters the climate of the conversation from defensive to reflective.
Every specific (and maybe even small) change we purposely make has the potential to positively impact the learning environment or learning path for students. If you want to read more about this strategy I’ve included a few links. Help me change the world, one word at a time.
The Magical Psychological Powers of And
Give Better Feedback by using And instead of But
The word but-use it with Caution