“Words are powerful,” is one of my mantras. My students, my colleagues, my family…they all know how much I value words, all words. It is what connects me to other teachers and writers (although I am uncomfortable with that title!) and readers and thinkers. Words are powerful.
I have always been pulled to words. I can (almost) still hear my father’s voice giving life to Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson as I fit myself onto his lap in his overstuffed, orange chair or snuggled under the bend of his elbow while he sat on the edge of my bed. I have surrounded myself with words my whole life, escaping into others’ words and trying to find my own. But what makes me a teacher is my relentless drive to show my students the power of words…their words, others’ words, written, spoken, improvised and revised to perfection.
It feels ironic that I am now forced to communicate with only my words and it is not enough. My students are forced to communicate with only their words and it is not enough. We don’t have the rest of the conversation to help. There is so much more beyond the words: eyes that lock for a beat too long or avoid altogether; shoulders hunched over in self protection or stiff backs, strong in anticipation of a battle; hands that sit loosely, revealing inner calm or hands that fidget, pick, and fumble betraying the facade being presented. There is so much more beyond the words.
Words are powerful, but they are, sometimes, just not enough.